Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said that he would "absolutely" consider cutting aid to Israel during a Friday interview with left-wing podcast Pod Save America.
Sanders clarified his position, saying he would use the funding as a bargaining chip to pressure the Israeli government to behave differently toward its Middle Eastern neighbors.
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"This is not easy stuff—to try to finally bring peace to the Middle East and to treat the Palestinian people with a kind of respect and dignity they deserve," he told host Jon Favreau. "Our policy cannot just be pro-Israel, pro-Israel, pro-Israel. It has got to be pro-region working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area."
Sanders added that he is "pro-Israel" and that he believes "the people of Israel have absolutely the right to live in peace, independence, and security." At the same time, however, he expressed disagreement with current Israel's policies under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I think what has happened is in recent years under Netanyahu, you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies," Sanders said.
Under his presidency, Sanders said, he would abandon strong support for Israel and would instead force leaders in the Middle East to compromise their interests under United States's leadership.
"We have spent trillions of dollars on the war on terror, and I, as president, would like to sit down in a room with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Iran, with the leadership of the Palestinians, with the leadership of Israel and hammer out some damn agreements, which will try to end the conflicts that exist there forever," Sanders said.
Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Israel under Netanyahu's leadership, saying at a town hall in April that he would change United States policy in the Middle East away from supporting "one country, which is now run by a right-wing, you know, dare I say, racist government."