Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders said on Monday that Israeli occupation runs against both American and Israeli values and called for its end. "We need to end this 50-year-long occupation," he said.
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"There is no question that we should be and will be Israel's very strong friend and partner in years to come," the Vermont senator told the 2017 J Street National Conference. "But we also need to recognize that the Israeli occupation runs contrary to American values and I believe, Israeli values as well."
The continued occupation and settlement construction, Sanders said, undermine peace efforts. Sanders applauded the administration of former President Barack Obama for its decision in December to abstain from vetoing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which censured Israeli settlement construction. "Those of us who support Israel, have got to tell the truth about policies that hurt the chances of a peaceful resolution," he said.
Sanders said the vision of peace in the Middle East was one that progressives "cannot give up on." He added: "our job is to oppose all the political forces, in our country and around the world, who are trying to tear us apart. This is a global phenomenon."
Mentioning Trump's joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, Sanders ridiculed the president's indifference to the two-state solution: "He said, 'I'm looking at two-states and one state, and I like the one that both sides like.' I think he was thinking that he was asked whether he likes Coca Cola or Pepsi cola. That's not the answer the American president should have given," Sanders said to applause.
"We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American. We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel. We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremists without being anti Muslim. Peace means security not only for every Israeli but also for every Palestinian."
Sanders called on U.S. President Donald Trump to condemn "all forms of bigotry" in the United States and across the world and took issue with Trump for failing to denounce anti-Semitism.
"Trump and his adviser [Steve] Bannon understand that the world is watching. They need to condemn all forms of bigotry in this country and around the world." Sanders said he "found it very troubling" that Trump failed to condemn anti-Semitism "that has arisen in light of his election." Sanders noted that when Trump had a chance to denounce anti-Semitism when asked for his stance by an Israeli reporter at his presser with Netanyahu last month, but instead "he chose instead to brag incorrectly about the size of his electoral victory."
Sanders' remarks as a fifth wave of bomb threats targeted Jewish schools and Jewish community centers since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Sanders expressed support for the nuclear deal with Iran and said "it proved that real American leadership is not demonstrated by blowing things up, but by bringing parties together and forging international consensus."
"The Obama administration managed, with the support of groups like J Street, managed to remove the danger of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats," he said.