WASHINGTON - One day after calling for an end to Israeli occupation, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday met with Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint Arab List faction in the Knesset, to discuss the situation of the Arab population of Israel as well as diplomatic issues.
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Odeh presented Sanders with data on Odeh's claims of institutional discrimination against Arabs in Israel and the situation of residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, according to a press release.
Sanders and Odeh also disccussed the political potential of Israeli Arab voters as a major voting bloc representing 20 percent of the country's population.
The Israeli Arab leader later met wtih the Congressional Progressive Caucus, comprised of a portion of the Democratic Congressmen to discuss the situation of Israeli Arabs and the ties between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu. Odeh took issue wtih Trump's wavering commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling it a critical issue.
On Monday, Sanders told the 2017 J Street National Conference that Israeli occupation runs against both American and Israeli vales and called for its end.
"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."