At an event in Iowa on December 7, Joe Biden criticized Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to condition military aid to Israel. On the campaign trail, Sanders has repeatedly indicated that he would be open to leveraging aid to the country in an effort to alter its treatment of Palestinians. Sanders has also suggested that some of the aid earmarked for Israel should go toward the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“In terms of Bernie and others who talk about dealing with Zionism, I strongly support Israel as an independent Jewish state,” said Biden, “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel, is bizarre. I would not do that. It’s like saying to France, ’Because you don’t agree with us, we’re going to kick you out of NATO.”
Since Sanders floated the idea of conditioning aid, other candidates have embraced it as a potential tool to influence Israel’s actions. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has declared that he would block any funding that would be used to annex the West Bank and Senator Elizabeth Warren has stated “everything is on the table” when it comes to curbing settlement expansion.
Last month, Biden told the Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui that leveraging aid to Israel was a “gigantic mistake” and “completely outrageous.”
“Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to settlements, and I think it’s a mistake,” said Biden, “And [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous. Anyway, no I wouldn’t condition it and I think it’s a gigantic mistake. And I hope some of the candidates who are running with me for the nomination–I hope they misspoke or were taken out of context.”
In addition to his military aid comments, Biden also criticized Netanyahu in Iowa for his proposed plan to annex the West Bank. However, he reserved his most severe denunciations for the Palestinian Authority, claiming that the group rejected a peace agreement where they’d end up with “98% of what they wanted.”
“They continued to insist on baiting everyone who is Jewish, saying they would not sign a deal with a Jewish state, will not recognize one even if we have an independent nation,” said Biden.
In 2016, while Biden was Vice President, the Obama administration signed a $38 billion, decade-long military aid package with Israel. Recent polling suggests that a majority of Democratic voters now back a policy of leveraging Israel’s military aid to combat the country’s human rights abuses.