(JTA) – Bernie Sanders, speaking in an Arab-American stronghold, said he would aim for a “level playing field” in U.S. Middle East policy.
Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont bidding for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination, said at a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, on Monday that brokering Israeli-Arab peace is daunting.
“For decades now there has been hatred and warfare in the Middle East, everybody knows it,” he said. “We’ve had some presidents – Carter, Clinton, others – who have tried to their best to resolve it.
“All I can tell you is I will make every single effort to bring rational people on both sides together so that hopefully we can have a level playing field, the United States treating everybody in that region equally.” The crowd erupted in applause.
Arab-American groups have long complained that U.S. policy in the Middle East tilts too much toward Israel.
The speech, the day before the Michigan primary, appealed to an important constituency in the state, Arab- and Muslim-Americans, and may have helped propel him to his surprise primary win the next day.
The passage about Israeli-Arab peace was excerpted from C-Span coverage by the Daily Wire, a conservative news and opinion site.
Sanders, who is Jewish, staked out a position on the issue closer to Donald Trump, the front-runner among Republicans, than the other Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, or any of the Republicans. Trump has taken hits from his Republican rivals and from Clinton for insisting he would remain neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“I know, I know there are people of good will in Israel and the Arab communities, this is not an easy task, but it is a task that we must pursue,” Sanders said. “We cannot continue to have for another 60 years with the kind of hatred and conflict that exists in the Middle East.”