Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said during an interview Sunday that Hillary Clinton has ignored the pain of the Palestinian people and called Israel’s response to rockets and terrorism from Hamas targeting its citizens "disproportionate."
Sanders spoke with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who played a clip of the Vermont Senator at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate arguing that, while Israel has a right to defend itself, the United States should play an "evenhanded" role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to bring peace to the Middle East.
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"Do you [see] that kind of evenhanded approach under President Obama?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"I think he’s done much better than his predecessors, but I still think we have a ways to go," Sanders said in response. "And I was not criticizing President Obama; I was criticizing Secretary Clinton. She gave a speech to AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]. It was a long speech. There was only one sentence I believe that even mentioned the Palestinians."
Sanders reaffirmed his belief that Israel has a right to exist and live in peace, but added that "you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. And longterm, the only way we bring peace to that region – "
"Do you think Secretary Clinton has ignored the suffering of the Palestinian people?" Stephanopoulos interjected.
"Well, I think if you listen to her speech, that was the major speech, she had one line on the Palestinian people," Sanders said. "I think that Israel has every right in the world to respond to terrorism, but I think in the Gaza it was a disproportionate response."
Clinton during her AIPAC speech condemned the Palestinian leadership for inciting violence against Israel, which has led to a spree of Palestinian terror attacks targeting Israelis in recent months.
"And you can’t just always nod your head to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. He is wrong on occasion," Sanders added.
Stephanopoulos then cited the Anti-Defamation League’s statement that Sanders’ comments "play into the hands that Israel is the main problem in this conflict."
"All I am saying is that you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people," Sanders responded.
Sanders has come under fire in recent weeks from people on both sides of the political spectrum and Israeli officials for saying during a New York Daily News editorial board interview that 10,000 innocent Palestinians were killed during the 2014 Gaza War.
That statement has since been proven false.
The Gaza War occurred in the summer of 2014 after Hamas used its network of terror tunnels to kidnap and murder three Israeli teenagers and began launching large numbers of rockets at Israeli cities and infrastructure.
The United States and other countries have designated Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews worldwide, as a terrorist organization.
Hamas stored its weapons arsenals in hospitals and United Nations schools throughout the conflict in an effort to force the Israeli military to kill civilians to counter Hamas’ aggression.
Israel took several measures to warn civilians if airstrikes were coming so they could get to safety, although Hamas tried to get the Palestinians to stay where they were, which analysts have described as a strategy of using humans shields.
Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 without asking for concessions from the Palestinians, and Hamas took formal control of the area in 2007.