WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he strongly opposes calls by other Democratic presidential candidates to condition U.S. aid to Israel on steps to end the occupation in the West Bank.
Biden told a Wall Street Journal reporter, who asked him about the subject, that calls to use aid to Israel as leverage are “absolutely outrageous.”
In recent months, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is competing with Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, has stated several times that he supports conditioning aid to Israel and using it as leverage to get the Israeli government to end the occupation. Sanders also suggested, in a speech before the J Street conference in Washington this week, that some of the aid given to Israel by the U.S., should in fact be used for improving the situation in Gaza.
Other Democratic candidates, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, have not gone as far as Sanders, but have expressed openness to the idea. Pete Buttigieg, a young candidate who is currently the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said that if Israel will annex parts of the West Bank, he will make sure that American aid money is not used to support such action.
Biden had not made a clear statement on the subject until facing a question about it on Thursday. “I have been on the record from very early on opposing the settlements, and I think it’s a mistake. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous.”
Biden added that Sanders’ suggestion was, in his view, “a gigantic mistake”, and he said that he hoped those suggestions were “taken out of context.” Biden is not the only Democratic candidate to express opposition to the idea. Earlier this week at the J Street conference, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado also spoke out against it.