Israel's Knesset Speaker to Bernie Sanders: 'Stop Talking Nonsense'

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein slams 'absurd claims' after Sanders suggests U.S. 'leverage' aid to Israel until living conditions in Gaza improve

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the J Street National Conference, with the hosts of "Pod Save the World," October 28, 2019.
Jacquelyn Martin,AP

Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein slammed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for suggesting that U.S. military aid to Israel should be diverted toward humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. Likud MK Edelstein said that Sanders should “stop talking nonsense,” adding that the Vermont senator’s assertion that Israel was responsible for conditions in Gaza was “absurd” in a tweet on Tuesday. 

Edelstein, a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, was responding to remarks that Sanders made at the J Street conference on Monday. The Vermon senator had suggested that the $3.8 billion dollars in U.S. military assistance to Israel could be “leveraged” to pressure Israel to move towards a two-state solution, and that he believed aid should instead be put towards improving living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza “right now.” 

In his tweets addressed to Sanders, Edelstein said that while speaking to European Union representatives visiting the Knesset on Monday, “I told them about the absurd claims regarding the economic situation in the Gaza Strip,” adding that “it's time to put an end to these claims.”

Hamas leaders in Gaza, he said, “have all the necessary means – they use the money earmarked for the public benefit in order to attack the State of Israel.”

Edelstein included a video of his Monday discussion with the EU representatives, in which he told them that Hamas, is a “terror organization” that doesn’t “know how to govern” and blamed them for poor living conditions in Gaza. 

“When someone says there are no means, I don’t accept it,” Edelstein said. The tunnels Hamas has built to infiltrate Israel clearly “cost millions,” as does their weaponry.

"Every time he sees a Hamas rocket launched towards Israel," Edelstein told the visiting diplomats, “I see food and diapers and medicine flying in the air.”  

While being interviewed onstage at the conference by the hosts of the podcast “Pod Save the World,” former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor and former US Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Sanders gave his proposal for handling U.S. military aid to Israel and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

“My solution is, to Israel, if you want military aid you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza,” the Vermont senator said, calling the situation in the Strip "absolutely inhumane. It is unacceptable. It is unsustainable."   

Sanders, who spoke alongside other 2020 Democratic hopefuls, added that the U.S. assistance that Israel is granted “is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”