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Sen. Bernie Sanders
Following are excerpts from a speech by Senator Bernie Sanders to the J Street Conference, Feb. 27, 2017, on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. This is a view not normally found in my “Week in Reviews,” nothing more than that.
Earlier this month, at a White House press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump was asked whether he supported a two-state solution. His answer was, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” As if someone asked him whether he preferred Coke to Pepsi.
We should be clear: The two-state solution, which involves the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, has been bipartisan U.S. policy for many years. It is also supported by an overwhelming international consensus, which was reaffirmed in December by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. While I understand that they’ve walked that statement back, the casual manner in which President Trump appeared to abandon that policy was extremely concerning, but also unfortunately typical of the carelessness with which he has managed American foreign policy thus far.
The president said that he supports a peace deal, but this doesn’t mean much. The real question is: Peace on what terms, and under what arrangement? Does “peace” mean that Palestinians will be forced to live under perpetual Israeli rule, in a series of disconnected communities in the West Bank and Gaza? That’s not tolerable, and that’s not peace.
If Palestinians in the occupied territories are to be denied self-determination in a state of their own, will they receive full citizenship and equal rights in a single state, potentially meaning the end of a Jewish majority state? These are very serious questions with significant implications for America’s broader regional partnerships and goals.
Friends, the United States and the State of Israel have a strong bond, going back to the moment of Israel’s founding. There is no question that we should be, and will be Israel’s strong friend and ally in the years to come. At the same time, we must recognize that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its daily restrictions on the political and civil liberties of the Palestinian people runs contrary to fundamental American values.
As former Secretary of State John Kerry rightly said in his speech in December, ‘Friends need to tell each other the hard truths.’ And the hard truth is that the continued occupation and the growth of Israeli settlements that the occupation sustains, undermines the possibility of peace. It contributes to suffering and violence.
As the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed on December 23, the settlements also constitute a flagrant violation of international law. I applaud the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from vetoing UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Those of us who really support Israel have got to tell the truth about policies that are hurting chances of reaching a peaceful resolution.
I recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most emotionally fraught issues in U.S. politics, involving as it does the legitimate historical claims, identities and security of two peoples in the same region.
So let me be very clear: to oppose the policies of a right-wing government in Israel does not make one anti-Israel or an anti-Semite. 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 extremism without being anti-Muslim.
As I said during my presidential campaign, peace means security not only for every Israeli, but also for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for both peoples.
These ideas are based in the very same shared values that impel us to condemn anti-Semitic bigotry, condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, and to make our own society better. These are the ideas that should guide us. The values of inclusiveness, security, democracy, and justice should inform not only America’s engagement with Israel and Palestine, but with the region and the world.
The United States will continue its unwavering commitment to the safety of the State of Israel, but we must also be clear that peacefully resolving this conflict is the best way to ensure the long-term safety of both peoples, and for making America more secure.
To my Israeli friends here with us today: we share many of the same challenges. In both of our countries we see the rise of a politics of bigotry and intolerance and resentment. We must meet these challenges together. As you struggle to make your society better, more just, more egalitarian, I want to say to you: Your fight is our fight.
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