Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton took a strong pro-Israel stance in a presidential debate in Brooklyn on Thursday, while her rival Bernie Sanders again doubled down on his criticism of Israel's conduct during the 2014 conflict with the Gaza Strip, proceeding to state that "we're going to have to say that Netanyahu isn't right all of the time."
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"Of course Israel has the right to defend itself. That's not up for debate," Sanders said, but added: "We had some 10,000 civilians who were wounded, 1,500 who were killed. Was that a disproportionate attack? I believe it was."
Stressing what he said was the need for an "even-handed approach" by the U.S., Sanders said that "as someone who's 100 percent pro-Israel, in the long run, if we're ever to bring peace we have to treat Palestinian people with respect and dignity."
In response, Clinton touted her role negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in 2012, and added that "there's always second guessing when there's a war." Israel did not invite the rocket attacks on its territory, Clinton said, and accused Hamas of conducting warfare in a way which deliberately placed civilians in harm's way. After Israel left Gaza and "turned over the keys to the Palestinians," Hamas took over the Strip and turned Gaza into a "terrorist haven," Clinton said.
With regards to the conflict as a whole, Clinton said that the U.S. should continue to pursue a two-state solution for the conflict, and added that had Yasser Arafat agreed to Ehud Barak's proposal in Camp David, there would have been a Palestinian state today. Regarding Sanders' criticism of Netanyahu, Clinton said that while no Israeli leader is always right, "it's a difficult position." It's difficult to seek peace when there's a terrorist group in Gaza that doesn't want you to exist, Clinton said.
Criticizing Clinton for not mentioning the Palestinians in her AIPAC speech, Sanders said that the U.S. needs to assume an evenhanded approach to the conflict if it intends to bring peace to the area.
"Describing the problem is easier than trying to solve it," Clinton responded.
Last week in a New York Daily News interview, Sanders erroneously inflated the number of Palestinian civilians killed during the 2014 Gaza conflict, for which he has since pulled back after a conversation with ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt.
Sanders is currently trailing Hillary Clinton in the April 19 New York primary by double digits. According to a recent Fox New poll, Clinton leads Sanders among Jewish voters by 24 points (59-35 percent).
In 2013, the Jewish vote made up 16-19 percent of the electorate in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary.
Earlier on Thursday, the New York Times reported that Sanders suspended his new Jewish outreach coordinator, after one of her past Facebook posts resurfaced in which she used coarse language to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on Wednesday that Simone Zimmerman wrote last year on Facebook that “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative a**hole."