Sanders campaign chair: Bernie wants ‘fresh thinking’ on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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Sanders campaign chair: Bernie wants ‘fresh thinking’ on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

After endorsing Hillary Clinton, Vermont senator seeks to give US policy on region 'a new look,' Jeff Weaver says

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver, speaks in the spin room after the Brown & Black Forum, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver, speaks in the spin room after the Brown & Black Forum, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — Shortly after Bernie Sanders unequivocally endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the party’s national convention Monday night, his campaign chair said the Vermont senator would continue to encourage “fresh thinking” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While the Sanders camp has taken steps in recent days to project an image of party unity and shepherd its grassroots base into the Clinton coalition for the general election, Jeff Weaver acknowledged that differences remained between the former rivals vis-a-vis the region, but that Sanders would “stress issues where they are very much together.”

Sanders does not intend to highlight any variations between his camp’s stance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and that of the former secretary of state during the coming five months, Weaver said, but would advocate the US policy take “a new look” on the enduring issue.

“He knows we’ll have to work through this,” Weaver told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “It’s a very difficult situation over there, obviously. It’s very complicated. And it’s a situation we’re going to have to work through.”

During his speech here, Sanders tried to persuade his base to back Clinton in November by providing a litany of shared policy priorities, like expanding Americans’ access to healthcare, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord and combating climate change.

Bernie Sanders speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)
Bernie Sanders speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Eric Cortellessa/Times of Israel)

“If you look at one issue after the other issue in terms of who the candidate is that we need to lead this country, there is no debate,” Sanders told his supporters. “The choice in this campaign is very, very clear, and I think the overwhelming majority of my supporters will see it that way.”

US Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (R) and Bernie Sanders smile after participating in the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on February 4, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)
US Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (R) and Bernie Sanders smile after participating in the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on February 4, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

He did not mention matters of foreign policy; Weaver indicated that those differences were far less acute than Sanders’s differences with Republican nominee Donald Trump, which is what the self-avowed democratic socialist wants to highlight from now until November.

He would, however, be willing to advocate his policy positions, but more likely so after Clinton secures the White House. “It’s a problem that needs a new look,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of progress in recent years, and I know that Sen. Sanders thinks we have to kick-start it, so I’m sure he’ll have that discussion with Sec. Clinton if there’s a time when he feels that’s appropriate.”

During the primary, Clinton and Sanders clashed on the Israel issue, with Sanders accusing his former rival of not putting enough focus on the plight of the Palestinians in her speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference. “I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people,” Sanders said. “Almost none in that speech.”

They also differed on how to classify Israel’s military operations during the 2014 war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with Sanders calling Israel’s conduct “disproportionate” and Clinton defending the Jewish state’s right to defend itself from indiscriminate rocket attacks.

Democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz addresses a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, July 23, 2016. (AFP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)
Democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz addresses a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, July 23, 2016. (AFP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)

But none of those disputes have been on display between the two campaigns this week, as they have attempted to join forces, even after DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned amid an email scandal that proved a bias for Clinton during the primary and revealed internal deliberations over how to undermine Sanders’s candidacy.

Weaver, for his part, said Sanders supporters should not linger on those revelations, despite his having accused the DNC of playing favorites for months.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned, it’s time to move on,” he said. “It’s time to unify the party and go out and beat Donald Trump. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

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