Bernie Sanders: Netanyahu Empowered 'Overt Racists,' Helped Foment Crisis

The United States needs to be 'leading the world in bringing people together, not simply supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza,' Sanders says

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, speaks at George Washington University in Washington, DC, in September.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, speaks at George Washington University in Washington, DC, in September. Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM - AFP

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he has empowered "overt racists" in his government and helped foment the recent round of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

On CBS's Face the Nation program, John Dickerson told the Vermont senator that he had read parts of Sanders' New York Times op-ed to Netanyahu, who thought it was "preposterous." 

Sanders claimed in the op-ed that the Israeli prime minister has "worked to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution." Dickerson then asked Sanders how one can take an "even-handed approach to terrorists who want to destroy Israel?"  

Sanders responded by highlighting Israeli politics' rightward shift. "What you've got to do is also understand is that, over the years, the Netanyahu government has become extremely right wing, and that there are people in the Israeli government now who are overt racists. You have in Jerusalem people being evicted from their homes. Tremendous pressure on people within Israel, the Arab community, as well as Gaza."

"Over more than a decade of his right-wing rule in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu has cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism, Sanders said.

"In his frantic effort to stay in power and avoid prosecution for corruption, Mr. Netanyahu has legitimized these forces, including Itamar Ben-Gvir and his extremist Jewish Power party, by bringing them into the government. It is shocking and saddening that racist mobs that attack Palestinians on the streets of Jerusalem now have representation in its Knesset."

"You have a very difficult situation: you have Hamas, a terrorist group. You have a right-wing Israeli government, and the situation is getting worse," Sanders said, adding that the United States needs to be "leading the world in bringing people together, not simply supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza."

Sanders, long one of the most vocal critics of Netanyahu in American politics, was a leader of the unprecedented wave of criticism from Democratic lawmakers over Israel's actions in Gaza during the recent round of violence. He introduced a Senate resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire that explicitly stated that both Israeli and Palestinian lives matter, as well as introducing a last-ditch effort to block a sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel.

When asked about Sanders' efforts to block the arms sale by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed to "giving Israel the means to defend itself, especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians. Any country would respond to that." He also committed, however, to complete any arms sale in full consultation with Congress.

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