The pickings are slim for voters looking for a presidential candidate who isn’t looking to maintain the status quo in Israel-U.S. relations, not to mention one actively opposed to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
WASHINGTON — To become president in the United States, a potential candidate must be at least 35 years of age, a natural-born citizen of the U.S., and a U.S. resident for at least the last 14 years. But judging by the field of candidates for the 2016 election, one could almost believe there is one other requirement: wholehearted support for Israel’s illegal occupation and oppression of Palestine.
Below is a survey of the three leading candidates from each party, based on a May 2015 Washington Post-ABC News poll, and their perspective on Palestine.
Bernie Sanders: Many American liberals are looking to the independent senator from Vermont, who announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party nomination in May, to provide an alternative to standard, Wall Street-driven party politics. But while Sanders may oppose the influence of Citizens United on American politics, he’s still a supporter of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. During last summer’s brutal assault by Israel on Gaza, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians — and left hundreds of thousands homeless, the entire U.S. Senate, including Sanders, unanimously voted to show their support for Israel.
Bustle’s Chris Tognotti reported last month on a tense confrontation between Sanders and supporters of Palestine at a 2014 town hall event in Vermont. While Sanders condemned Israel for attacking United Nations targets, he still voiced support for the deadly Israeli offensive:
Hillary Clinton: The leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Clinton’s position on Israel is closely aligned with that of the White House. As Secretary of State, she oversaw numerous meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under an administration that supported Israel with billions of dollars in military aid per year. Both during and after her tenure as the country’s top diplomat, she openly supported military action against Iran, a key element of Israeli foreign policy. The Washington Post in 2014 quoted her as claiming solidarity with Jewish oppression while ignoring the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians:
“‘When Americans of all faiths look at Israel, we see a homeland for a people long oppressed and a democracy that has to defend itself at every turn,’ Clinton said. ‘In Israel’s story, we see our own.’”
More recently, MintPress News’ Ramona Wadi reported on Clinton’s attendance at the Zionist Saban Forum, where the event’s wealthy founder Haim Saban called her an individual who “embodies support for Israel.”
Joe Biden: Vice President Joe Biden has publicly expressed interest in running for president, and he remains a popular possible candidate in the polls. Although he has previously voiced support for a Palestinian state, he’s also made appearances at pro-Israel events and expressed his desire to supply the country with more military aid, even though that aid is inevitably used to assault Palestinian civilians. At an “Israeli Independence Event” in Washington in April, Biden promised to supply Israel with the latest military weaponry, saying:
“Next year we will deliver to Israel the F-35 joint strike fighter, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.”
Jeb Bush: The former governor of Florida is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. He’s made repeated visits to the country with his family and openly attacks Obama for making even the slightest criticisms of Israel. In a March editorial for the conservative National Review, Bush accused Obama of mistaking “friend and foe” when it came to Israel and Iran, and put forth his support for both Israel’s violent aggressions and its illegal expansion of Jerusalem settlements into Palestinian territory:
“Israel’s elections should be something to celebrate. If only the rest of the region were able to hold peaceful and vibrant multi-party elections … Yet instead of recognizing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reelection and the achievement of Israel’s multi-party, multi-ethnic democracy, the White House issued half-hearted congratulations. […] But this is consistent with a pattern of diplomatic scolding of Israel. The Obama administration has insisted that Israel make concessions just to get the Palestinian leaders to the negotiating table. The Obama administration treats announcements of new apartment buildings in Jerusalem like acts of aggression. […] Anyone who claims to pursue peace in the region — especially between Israel and her neighbors — must know that Israel will make no sacrifices for peace when she feels threatened.”
Rand Paul: The senator from Kentucky is often regarded as a maverick in the Republican Party, openly opposing the NSA’s mass surveillance programs and the police militarization caused by the “war on drugs.” Like fellow “maverick” Sanders, Paul helped unanimously pass the 2014 resolution supporting Israel’s attack on Gaza. However, he’s gone further as a presidential candidate, dehumanizing Palestinians by referring to the population as “terrorists” on his website, and posting a video to reaffirm that support for Israel is a key part of his platform:
Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor is freshly returned from a trip to Israel, which he told the media showed him that the region is “not ready” for a Palestinian state. “The security risks are very real, and I think going forward there’s got to be a way to have secure borders for the state of Israel itself,” he said. The five-day visit was described as a “listening tour,” where Walker could visit major sites in Israel and have private meetings with officials, without the press scrutiny that normally comes with a public trip to the country.
Meanwhile, Walker hired Robert O’Brien, former advisor to Mitt Romney, to guide the foreign policy of his campaign. In 2012, O’Brien voiced his strong support for what he called Israel’s “commitment to human rights” and democracy — a stark contrast to the reality on the ground for Palestinians.