The Financial Express

US elections: Bernie Sanders pitches for Palestine in Israel-Palestine conflict

| Updated: October 21, 2017 16:10:48

US elections: Bernie Sanders pitches for Palestine in Israel-Palestine conflict

The 9th Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held at the latter's urging prior to the extremely important primary in New York was held in Brooklyn on April 14. The New York primary will be held on Tuesday, April 19.  When he started his run for the Democratic ticket, no one gave the Senator from Vermont any chance. Leading to the New York primary, with a run of successes in the primaries held in recent weeks, he has made big strides. Yet on the math of count of delegates who will choose the eventual party nominee in the Party's Convention in the end of June, he has 1076 delegates, including 31 super delegates, against Hillary's 1758 including 469 super delegates leading to the NY primary. From the count, many have already concluded he is out of the race. The winning candidate would need 2383 delegates with 1931 delegates still available.
The Senator is hoping differently; that if he could narrow the elected delegates' count sufficiently, he could place his case before the Party's Convention to make the 720 super delegates change their minds in his favour and help him cross the line. That is for Senator Bernie Sanders, a nearly impossible situation. Ahead are three major primaries, in New York today (Tuesday) where there are 291 delegates and in Pennsylvania with 218 delegates and Maryland with 118 where primaries will be held on April 26. All three states are expected to be won by Hillary decisively. Therefore, the Senator's campaign may not have the force to go to the Convention with any strength to upset the former First Lady. Against these odds, Senator Sanders is officially not even a democrat. He has been elected a Senator as an independent.  
Further, even if hypothetically, Hillary Clinton were to lose NY and the other states to follow, she would be expected to pick substantial delegates that are allocated proportionately to votes cast. In NY primary, she already has a 10-point lead and in Maryland and Pennsylvania, she cannot lose according to poll predictions. Therefore, with the lead she has already built, Hillary Clinton is already in a position where the Senator from Vermont is in no position to mount any realistic challenge in the Convention in June. Yet he is sticking around because with his socialist ideas of free education in the public colleges, bringing down wall Street for the main street and taxing the rich 1.0 per cent to benefit the 99 per cent, he has touched the hearts and minds of the youth and many millions across the country who are backing him to the hilt and thronging his rallies like a superstar.
Bernie Sanders is sticking to the race aware of his fate to force Hillary Clinton to adopt as much of his policies as he could force on her. She has already accepted the main theme of Bernie Sanders' campaign directed against Wall Street admitting that no bank is too big to fail. Bernie Sanders once again pushed his populist ideas in the Brooklyn debate. Unfortunately, he again underlined that his ideas are driven by passion as he failed, as he had in the previous debates, to place before the nation any plans on how he would transform his passion into policies of his administration if he became the President. For instance, he has not yet explained who would break the big banks and what would come into being in its place or how his tax plans would work out or how he would pay for free education that he is promising to students in the public colleges.
Against his mainly clueless campaign on policies, Hillary Clinton was able to explain in the last debate as she had done in the previous ones about her policies, that on domestic issues as well as foreign affairs/security issues, she knows what she would do as the next president of the United States. In fact, in a way Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are similar in suggesting big changes, some even revolutionary, in the way the US would be governed if either became the president but almost totally vague in how they would achieve their goals. Of course, Bernie Sanders is a dreamer for the welfare of the overwhelming majority of Americans without any class, colour, sex, religious or ethnic bias. Donald Trump's revolutionary dream is for those in the United States that are religiously and racially bigoted and who favour a vision of America not different from the one envisioned by the country's hated white supremacists.
Nevertheless, in the Brooklyn debate, Bernie Sanders was able to expose a major chink in Hillary Clinton's armour, her support for Israel (Sanders said it was 100 per cent) and her blatantly anti-Palestinian stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict. In US's politics at the national level, Bernie Sanders for the first time exposed the injustice being perpetrated upon the Palestinians by the Israelis in a passionate manner that must have made the world feel proud of him.
Bernie Sanders said he supported the absolute right of the Israelis to defend themselves from terrorist attacks. Thereafter Senator Sanders stated that for the Israelis to do what they did in Gaza in 2014, to have subjected 10,000 people to inhuman torture and killed 1500 was a "disproportionate attack" to him as well as "to all countries of the world." He outlined the plight of people in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine as a consequence of Israel's policy to deal with the Palestinians and stated categorically that "if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity." Senator Sanders said such a view does not make him anti-Israel but one "that paves the way towards an approach that works in the Middle East."
Senator Hillary's response was to sideline the injustice perpetrated on Palestine by Israel and focus on Hamas to justify what Israel has been doing in Palestine and to Palestinians.
Clearly, on Israel-Palestine, Hillary Clinton was left defending an indefensible position but that she did nevertheless. She did so for two reasons basically. First, looking at Tuesday's primary, an overtly pro-Israel stand was necessary given the strength of Jews in the state. Second, of course, the strength of the Jewish lobbies in any presidential election in the United States is a well-acknowledged fact that politicians of both the parties dare not forget. Further, a blatantly pro-Israel policy has never hurt any politician in the United States, particularly in politics at the federal level. At the worst, she may lose the Muslim votes that have no impact in a presidential election but even with those votes, Muslims given the choice between Donald Trump/Ted Cruz against Hillary Clinton would prefer to vote for her.
Among the campaigns in the two parties, Bernie Sanders' one is the only campaign that is being pursued with the heart for doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Unfortunately, as Hillary Clinton won by a big margin in New York, it could be the beginning of the end of the Senator's efforts. Nevertheless, like his campaign has already influenced Hillary Clinton's campaign of some crucial domestic issues, perhaps the same could be expected on his views on Israel-Palestine issues and that the former First Lady would see the conflict his way, if not completely, perhaps partially once she becomes the president.

The writer is a retired Ambassador.

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