Sen. Bernie Sanders’s decision to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential race set off some alarm bells for the pro-Israel community.
The Vermont Socialist is probably the most critical towards Israel of all the possible major contenders for the nomination. Indeed, the only issue on which he had a substantive difference of opinion with Hillary Clinton during his insurgent challenge to the eventual nominee was on Israel. During their Brooklyn debate, Sanders articulated a stand on the Jewish state’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas terrorists that went beyond the hostility and desire for more “daylight” between the United States and Israel of the Obama administration.
In the years since 2016, Sanders has continued to fire away at Israel. He bashed its defense of the border with Gaza as “excessive” and authored a Senate letter demanding that the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the terrorist enclave be lifted. Ending that blockade would allow more goods into the Hamas-run independent state in all but name, but would also facilitate Iran’s efforts to re-arm the terrorist arm and allow it to make the strip even more of a fortress than it already has become.
He also hired Faiz Shakir as his campaign manager. Shakir has the honor of being the first Muslim to run a major presidential campaign, but as the former political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, he also helped direct a campaign defending BDS activists. It isn’t without reason that Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—the pro-BDS members of Congress and now notorious tweeters of anti-Semitic tropes—speak of Sanders as their “Uncle Bernie.”
The Democratic Party has moved in Sanders’s direction on many issues since his first presidential run. So the idea that he will, win or lose, have a major impact on the race causes some supporters of Israel to worry.
But while the pro-Israel community shouldn’t be complacent about the way the campaign will affect U.S.-Israel relations, neither is there reason to panic. And that’s not only because the odds of the 77-year-old Sanders prevailing over a field filled with younger, well-funded candidates are fairly long.
Though Sanders and other progressives in the race disagree with the policies on Jerusalem, the peace process and Iran that have endeared U.S. President Donald Trump to Israelis, the idea that the Jewish state is going to be a major source of contention in the primaries seems far-fetched.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jonathan S. Tobin