Sanders Threatens to Withhold Israeli Security Aid

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said he would support leveraging American aid to Israel to pressure the country into changing its policies.

Sanders argued the United States should threaten to withhold aid if Israel did not pledge to surrender territory to Palestinian political authorities. The Vermont senator told former Obama administration officials Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes that the United States should demand the "Israeli government sit down with the Palestinian people and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties."

"I would use the leverage. $3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government or for that matter to any government at all," he said. "We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy."

Multiple Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to withhold funding to Israel if the country did not implement a two-party state. Vietor asked the Vermont senator how he would leverage American aid to end what Sanders has described as an "absolutely inhumane" and "unacceptable" situation in Gaza.

"We have a right to say to the Israeli government that the United States of America and our taxpayers and our people believe in human rights, we believe in democracy, we will not accept authoritarianism or racism," Sanders said.

Sanders's remarks at the national J Street conference echoed comments fellow presidential candidate Julián Castro had made earlier in the day. Castro endorsed potentially withholding aid to pressure the Israeli government into pursuing a two-state solution.

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg similarly told the crowd that U.S. policy should not be supportive of settlement construction in the West Bank. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) also endorsed putting pressure on the country, saying "everything is on the table" for pursuing a two-state solution.