- The Washington Times
Friday, August 16, 2019

Democratic residential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders defended Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Thursday over Israel barring them from entering, saying Israel should return the “billions and billions” of aid the U.S. provides the Mideast ally.

Mr. Sanders said he wasn’t surprised that President Trump called for the two congresswomen to be denied entry and that Mr. Trump said they “hate Israel” and “all Jewish people.”

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, after Mr. Trump’s tweets, blocked the two Democratic lawmakers from entry over their criticisms of Israel and their support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

“Well, I wish I could tell you, Ali, that I am shocked. I am not,” the Vermont lawmaker said to MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. “We have a president who tragically is a racist, is a xenophobe, and who is a religious bigot.

“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’ve been there many many times, but if [Mr. Netanyahu] doesn’t want numbers to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel,” he said.

Mr. Velshi asked Mr. Sanders about comments he made Tuesday that the U.S. aid to Israel could be leveraged to “end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel.”

“Right, 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 — unemployment rate off the charts, people cannot leave their community,” Mr. Sanders responded.

“And what I think that the United States should be doing, especially with the enormous amount 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 said.

Israel on Friday granted Ms. Tlaib permission to visit her grandmother if she does not criticize the Israeli government, but she declined, saying, “silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what [my grandmother] wants for me. It would kill a piece of me.”

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