Refreshingly fair


Of all US presidential candidates, be they Democrat or Republican, ironically, the Jewish senator from Vermont seems to have the most balanced position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bernie Sanders has made no secret of his belief that Israelis and Palestinians can and should coexist peacefully and that Palestinians should have a country of their own.

Speaking during an editorial board meeting with the New York Daily News recently, Sanders said that if Israel seeks “positive ties with the US”, its government has to “improve its relationship with the Palestinians”.

The US, Sanders believes, “cannot ignore the reality that you have large numbers of Palestinians who are suffering now, poverty rate off the charts, unemployment off the charts, Gaza remaining a destroyed area”.

The Vermont senator, lucid and fair, states the obvious when he says that “the hatred, violence and loss of life that define this conflict make living an ordinary life a constant struggle for both peoples. We must work with those Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are committed to peace, security and statehood rather than to empty rhetoric and violence. A two-state solution must include compromises from both sides to achieve a fair and lasting peace in the region”.

A prerequisite to reaching the coveted peace is a halt in and rollback of illegal Israeli settlements.

Sanders told the Daily News that “for long-term peace in that region, Israel cannot just simply expand when it wants to expand with new settlements”.

“If the expansion was illegal, moving into territory that was not their territory, I think withdrawal from those territories is appropriate,” he rightly concludes.

Settlements, indiscriminate attacks against Gaza, the killing of innocent people, the destruction of infrastructure are all impediments to peace.

And Sanders does not fail to see them as such, just like he sees that Israel’s use of force in Gaza “was more indiscriminate than it should have been”.

That does not get Hamas off the hook for its rocket attacks. But then, the man is fair and stays true to his position.

That is not going to get him much support from Jewish Americans, but one cannot but respect a presidential candidate who does not grovel for the lobby’s money, especially in New York, where the next major primary elections will be held with the odds still in favour of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Whether Sanders wins or loses, it is refreshing to hear a prominent US presidential candidate speak so openly against Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and advocates a balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“… the bottom line is that Israel must have the right to exist in peace and security, just as the Palestinians must have the right to a homeland in which they and they alone control their political system and their economy,” he justly said.

The American voters who stand by Sanders must know that their support will not go unappreciated or unrecognised by all freedom-loving peoples of the world.

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