Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Sunday took a differing stance on Israel to fellow presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, saying that the Jewish state was entitled to protect itself against Gaza’s terror group ruler, Hamas.
“Hamas provokes Israel. They often pretend to have people in civilian garb acting as though they are civilians who are Hamas fighters,” Clinton told CNN’s “State of the Union” talk show on Sunday, according to Politico.
“When your soldiers are under attack, you have to respond,” Clinton said.
“It’s a very different undertaking for Israel to target those who are targeting them. And I think Israel has had to defend itself, has a right to defend itself.”
Sanders told the same talks show Sunday that Israel reacted with “disproportionate” force during its military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2014.
In a New York Daily News interview last week, Sanders claimed 10,000 civilians were killed by Israel’s “disproportionate” attack on Gaza targets during the conflict, more than seven times higher than the figure given by Hamas, and higher still than Israel’s assessment of the casualties.
His remarks were met with criticism from the ADL and senior Israeli officials, including Israel’s former ambassador to the US Michael Oren, now a Knesset lawmaker with the Kulanu party, who even accused the Vermont senator of spreading “blood libel.”
Sanders, who acknowledged over the weekend that he got the death toll wrong, said Sunday that he was determined to take a “more balanced position” on Israel than other American politicians.
During an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sanders reiterated his support for Israel, but doubled down on the contention that its military campaign in Gaza was excessive.
“Of course we’re going to support Israel, but you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people,” Sanders told CNN. “We will not succeed to ever bring peace in that region unless we also treat the Palestinians with dignity and respect.”
Asked about criticism from Oren, Sanders asked, “Who is Mr. Oren?” Told who Oren is, Sanders said, “I see. And he’s attacking me for a statement I did not make.”
The incident comes ahead of a crucial New York Democratic primary, where both candidates are vying for the heavily liberal and sizable Jewish vote in the April 19 ballot.