Trail Mix: April 11, 2016

Trail Mix

Several presidential candidates discussed Israel and the Middle East over the weekend. Ted Cruz was the lone Republican to address a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took to the media to share their views on issues including Gaza and the settlements in West Bank.

 

Clinton

 

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in on Israel’s actions in Gaza during the 2014 conflict with Hamas, which her Democratic opponent Senator Bernie Sanders previously described as “disproportionate.” During an interview with journalist Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Clinton said that when “your soldiers are under attack, you have to respond.” She went on to observe:

“Hamas provokes Israel. They often pretend to have people in civilian garb acting as though they are civilians who are Hamas fighters. It’s a very different undertaking for Israel to target those who are targeting them. And I think Israel has had to defend itself, has a right to defend itself.”

The Secretary also spoke about settlements over the weekend in a discussion with the editorial board of the NY Daily News. Clinton placed her own opposition to settlements in the context of decades of bipartisan American policy:

“Administrations -– both Democrat and Republican –- have all adopted the same position that settlement expansion is not helpful. In the context of the continuing American interest in helping to bring the parties together to try to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict, I am in line with prior Republicans and Democrats.”

Clinton also affirmed her strong support for Israel’s security — and her commitment to resolving any disputes with Israel’s government respectfully and, ideally, in private.

 

Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders stood by his criticism of Israel’s 2014 military operations in Gaza, while acknowledging that he had made an error in telling the NY Daily News that civilian casualties from that conflict were around 10,000 — in fact, civilian deaths from the operations have been estimated at just over 1,400.

Appearing on CNN, Sanders told Jake Tapper, “Was Israel’s response disproportionate? I think it was.”

When Tapper suggested that the Senator was taking a “more critical position” on Israel than other candidates, Sanders characterized it instead as “a more balanced position.” He said:

“Of course we are going to support Israel, but you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza right now: poverty, unemployment, their community has been decimated. You can’t ignore that fact. And you can’t just be only concerned about Israel’s needs. You have to be concerned about the needs of all of the people of the region.”

Cruz

 

Senator Ted Cruz was the lone Republican presidential candidate to address the RJC’s spring leadership gathering in Las Vegas, and took full advantage of his opponents’ absence to score points on Israel with the crowd. He trumpeted his absolute support for Israel and bashed President Obama:

“For seven years we’ve had a president who abandons and alienates our friends, and who shows weakness and appeasement to our enemies.”

Cruz also repeated his longstanding promise to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and criticized Donald Trump for promising earlier in the campaign to be a neutral mediator between Israelis and Palestinians — a promise Trump apparently fully walked back in his speech to the AIPAC conference last month.

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