Don’t look for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the only Jewish presidential candidate in the 2016 sweepstakes and only one who actually lived in Israel, to join the panderfest of candidates trying to out-Israel each other. I doubt he’ll even make a photo-op pilgrimage to the Holy Land as so many, especially Republicans, are.
Sanders, a Brooklyn native, is a socialist who has been repeatedly elected to the House and Senate from Vermont as an Independent, although he caucuses with the Democrats and chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee in the previous Congress.
Many see his candidacy as an effort to draw frontrunner Hillary Clinton closer toward the party’s progressive wing. Read more about that in my Washington Watch column.
Only one percent of Vermont’s 626,000 residents are Jewish yet the nation’s second smallest state has a Jewish senator, a Jewish mayor of its largest city, Burlington’s Miro Weinberger, a former governor Madeleine Kunin and the present governor, Peter Shumlin, whose father was Jewish. And so are the state’s two most prominent businessmen, ice cream moguls Ben & Jerry.
Bernie may be very popular with most Vermonters, but its top Democrats have already endorsed Clinton.
Sanders spent time on a kibbutz after graduating the University of Chicago – and has a solid pro-Israel voting record during his 24 years in Congress.
Some on the far right might disagree since he’s a strong believer in the two-state solution and stayed away from Bibi Netanyahu’s congressional speech, and those on the far left were upset with his support for Israel’s actions in last year’s Gaza war. When heckled by an anti-Israel protester who didn’t like his defense of Israel and criticism of Hamas at a town hall meeting, Sanders told him to “shut up” and the heckler responded, “Bulls**t. F*** Israel.”
He believes “leadership on both sides is not particularly good,” and the United States must be the catalyst for peace because both parties left to themselves are incapable. His words:
“The Palestinians must fulfill their responsibilities to arrest terrorists, confiscate terrorists’ weapons, dismantle terrorist organizations, halt all anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. In return, the Israelis must end their policy of targeted killings, prevent further Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and infrastructure.”
“I have little respect for the leaders of wealthy Arab countries who express great concern about the plight of the Palestinians, while they put billions in Swiss bank accounts.”
Don’t look for him to try to out-Israel the others, especially the way the Republican hopefuls are scrambling to pledge loyalty to Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud cause. They have to because it is their best road to raising big money from Jewish billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, although they have a slim chance of garnering many Jewish votes.