Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to Israel’s ban of Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib by suggesting they should also turn the billions of dollars in aid it receives from the US.
On Thursday, Israel announced it would not allow Omar and Tlaib to enter the country after pressure from President Trump to ban them from traveling there on an upcoming Congressional trip. Sanders told MSNBC, “I wish I could tell you that I am shocked, I am not.”
“We have a president who tragically is a racist, is a xenophobe and who is a religious bigot,” said Sanders. “But the idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which by the way we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage.”
“And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country, to get a first-hand look at what’s going on, and I have been there many, many times, but if he doesn’t want members of visit maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel,” he added.
Sanders wants to ‘leverage’ Israel aid:
Sanders doubled down on his previous call to “leverage” the aid the country gives to Israel to pressure them to “show respect to the Palestinian people.”
“All that I am saying is that we need a Middle East policy which is even-handed, which protects the independence and the safety of Israel, but also shows respect to the Palestinian people, many of whom in Gaza and elsewhere are suffering incredibly,” he explained.
“I think what the United States should be doing, especially with the enormous amounts of money we’re spending there, is to demand that Israel and the Palestinian leadership sit down and start working out their differences and create peace in that troubled region,” he added.
George H.W. Bush had a similar stance on leveraging aid to Israel.
Israel is largest recipient of US aid:
Even though it ranks among the top 35 economies in the world, above Hong Kong, Denmark, Singapore, Finland, and Chile, Israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world.
In September 2016, the US approved a $38 billion aid package to Israel, “the largest such aid package in US history,” Reuters reported.
Congress similarly gave Israel $3 billion per year under a previous agreement.