US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders slams Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, condemning the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In a foreign policy speech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday, the Vermont senator said Israel’s settlement constructions in the West Bank undermine the peace process.
Sanders was the only presidential candidate to skip the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.
The Vermont senator called for an end to Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip, which has created a dire economic situation in the enclave.
“We are obligated to speak the truth as we see it. This is what real friendship demands, especially in difficult times,” Sanders said, according to a prepared text of his remarks provided by his campaign.
“To be successful, we have to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza, they suffer from an unemployment rate of 44 percent—the highest in the world—and a poverty rate nearly equal to that,” he noted.
The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.
Sanders criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for withholding over hundreds of millions of shekels in tax revenue to Palestinians.
He also called for a “sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources” in the occupied territories.
“Right now, Israel controls 80 percent of the water reserves in the West Bank. Inadequate water supply has contributed to the degradation and desertification of Palestinian land,” Sanders said. “A lasting a peace will have to recognize Palestinians are entitled to control their own lives, and there is nothing human life needs more than water.”
Speaking to CNN on Monday evening, Sanders also took a swipe at his own government for giving a free pass to Israel over its crimes.
“Overwhelmingly the United States time and time again has looked aside when Israel has done some bad things,” he said.
Sanders slammed Israel for waging a devastating war on Gaza in summer of 2014, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. “The kind of destruction that was wrecked on Gaza during that war was way above what needed to be done for military purposes.”