Interview with US Senator (and erstwhile Hillary Clinton rival) Bernie Sanders by Dena Takruri of AJ+:
Last week you joined every single US senator in signing a letter to the UN secretary general saying that the institution is biased against Israel and effectively trying to shield it from criticism...
- No, no, no. I don't accept that. Look, I didn't write that letter, I signed on to the letter. It's not a letter I would've written. There are many problems with Israel.. I have been critical and will be critical of a lot of what Israel does. On the other hand, to see Israel attacked over and over again for 'human rights violations,' which may be true, when you have countries like Saudi Arabia or Syria. Saudi Arabia - I'm not quite sure if women can even drive a car, OK? So I think that the thrust of that letter is not to say that Israel does not have human rights issues. It does. But to say, how come it's only Israel when you have other countries where women are treated as third-class citizens. Where is Egypt, I don't know how many thousands of people are lingering in jail. So that the point of that [is] not to defend Israel, but to say, why only Israel? You wanna talk about human rights. Let's talk about human rights.
Should the UN shield Israel from criticism?
- No, of course not.
This letter also denounces the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement, known as BDS. You are a longtime proponent of nonviolent protests. This, in the eyes of many Palestinians is the effective way to get Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian human rights. Do you accept that?
- No, I don't. I mean, look, I respect people who do what they want to do. But I think our job as a nation is to do everything humanly possible to bring Israel and the Palestinians and the entire Middle East - to the degree that we can - together. But no, I'm not a supporter of that.
Palestinians will say they've resisted violently, they get punished. They resist nonviolently with BDS, they're also punished. We're entering the 50th year of the occupation. We know the occupation has no end in sight. We know that this is a government that doesn't plan on ending it and talks have failed for a quarter of a century. What, if not BDS, is left for the Palestinians to do?
- What must be done is that the United States of America must have a Middle East policy which is even-handed. Which does not simply supply endless amounts of money, of military supplies, to Israel, but which treats both sides with respect and dignity and does our best to bring them to the table.
It's increasingly evident that hopes for a two-state solution are almost dead. At the same time, polls among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are showing that they're increasingly in favor of a one-state solution, with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians alike and equal citizenship. Is that something you believe could happen, or is that something you support?
- No, I don't. I mean, I think if that happens, then that would be the end of the state of Israel. And I support Israel's right to exist.
Do you think, a two-state solution is still viable?
- Yes, I think if there is the political will to make it happen and if there is good faith on both sides, I do think it's possible. And I think there has not been good faith certainly on [the part of] this Israeli government, and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership as well.