SALT LAKE CITY – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday pledged to restart peace talks in the Middle East, a process he said would require “hard but just decisions” to put Israel and the Palestinians on a “path toward peace.”
Speaking at a school here in Utah, Sanders delivered the speech that he would have made to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, D.C., but was unable to attend in person.
“I am here to tell you that, if elected president, I will work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace as a partner and as a friend to Israel. But to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza, unemployment today is 44 percent and the poverty rate is almost as high,” Sanders said. “That cannot be ignored.”
He also touched on the importance of defeating the Islamic State terrorist organization with a coalition led by Muslim nations in the region. “While the U.S. has an important role to play in defeating ISIS, it must be led by the countries in the region,” Sanders said. “I agree with King Abdullah of Jordan who said this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Islam and that the only people that will destroy ISIS will be Muslim troops on the ground.”
In Syria, Sanders called for a negotiated settlement to the long civil war. “After five years of brutal conflict, the only solution in Syria is a negotiated political settlement. Those who advocate for stronger military involvement by the U.S. to oust Assad from power have not paid close enough attention to history. That would simply prolong the war, and increase the chaos in Syria, not end it.”
Regarding Iran, Sanders said Tehran must be prevented from developing a nuclear weapons program. “We all agree that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. Where we may disagree is how to achieve that goal. I personally supported the nuclear agreement with the United States, France, China, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran because I believe it is the best hope to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” He thanked the administration of President Barack Obama for its leadership.
“I believe we have an obligation to pursue diplomatic solutions before resorting to military intervention,” Sanders said. “If we have learned anything from history it is that we must pursue every diplomatic option.”
Read the full remarks here.