Washington — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called for the United States to take an “even-handed” approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a cease-fire between the Israelis and the militant group Hamas brought a halt to violence in Gaza.
In an interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sanders, an independent who votes with Democrats, said the U.S. needs to be the world leader uniting people, not “supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza.”
“I think the United States has got to develop an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “We have to be pro-Israel, but we have to be pro-Palestinian. And I hope and believe the president understands that.”
Brokered by Egypt and announced late Thursday, the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas brought a halt to 11 days of violence that left more than 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead. The cease-fire, while fragile, appears to be holding, and humanitarian aid began flowing into Gaza on Saturday.
President Biden on Thursday praised the announcement of the end to the fighting and vowed his administration would continue “our quiet and relentless diplomacy” to ensure Palestinians and Israelis equally live safely and securely.
While Mr. Biden said little publicly about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, his administration worked behind the scenes to pressure Israel to stop its strikes in Gaza. Still, Democrats urged the president to forcefully call for a cease-fire, and Sanders wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times on May 14 that the U.S. should stop supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Sanders on Sunday the situation between Israel and Hamas is worsening, and acknowledged it’s a “very difficult situation.”
“Hamas is a terrorist, corrupt, authoritarian group of people, and we have got to stand up to them. But once again, our job is not simply to put more and more military support for Israel,” he said. “It is to bring people together, and we can’t do it alone. We need the international community. But that’s what I think we need to be doing.”
Alongside the violence between Israel and Hamas came a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League said it received 193 reports of possible anti-Semitic incidents in the week after the crisis began, up from 131 the prior week.
Sanders called the anti-Semitism an “outrage” and said right-wing extremists are leading an increase in hate crimes in the U.S. He also said officials should “tone down the rhetoric” used to describe the recent outbreak of violence.
“I think our goal is very simple. It is to understand that what’s going on in Gaza today is unsustainable when you have 70% of the young people unemployed, when people cannot leave the community, when hospitals and wastewater plants have been destroyed. That is unsustainable. And the job of the United States is to bring people together. And that is what we have got to try to do,” he said.