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Palestinian Joint List leader 'builds alliance' with Bernie Sanders

Ayman Odeh and Bernie Sanders met at a conference in Washington [Getty Images]

Date of publication: 29 October, 2019

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Palestinian-Israeli politician Ayman Odeh and Senator Bernie Sanders met on the sidelines of the annual left-leaning J Street conference in Washington.
Leader of the Palestinian-Israeli Joint List alliance Ayman Odeh met with US presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday.

Odeh and Sanders met on the sidelines of the annual left-leaning J Street conference in Washington.

The Palestinian politician tweeted: "With my friend @BernieSanders at the @jstreetdotorg conference. If Trump and Netanyahu can work together than we progressives must build alliances too #jstreet2019."

Odeh's Joint List, an alliance of the main Palestinian-majority political parties in Israel, is the third largest party in Israeli parliament since September's election. 

Sanders took to the stage at the conference, saying he is "very proud to be Jewish" and was looking forward to becoming "the first Jewish president".

"As a kid I spent many months at a Kibbutz in Israel. I believe in the right of Israel to exist, in peace and security," Sanders said. 

"But I also believe that the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace and security."

Senator Sanders, who rarely talks about his Jewish faith, explained how the murder of much of his father's family in the Holocaust shaped his progressive views.

Comment: Palestinian hopes don't lie in Israel's election, but in America 2020

"If there is any people on earth who understands the danger of racism and white nationalism, it is certainly the Jewish people," Sanders said to thunderous applause.

Rising from his seat on stage to give a campaign-style address, Sanders, who would be the first Jewish president, accused both Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of fomenting division.

"Let me underline this because it will be misunderstood - it is not anti-semitism to say that the Netanyahu government has been racist. It is a fact," he said.

He called for some of the $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to be turned into humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip in a "radical intercession" for the packed, impoverished territory under a blockade since it elected Islamist militants Hamas in 2007.

Read more: For many displaced families in Gaza, war is never over

Odeh's Joint List backed ex-military chief Benny Gantz as the country's next prime minister after Israel's recent general elections. Odeh told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin the alliance's priority was to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu from power.

Palestinian Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land in 1948, when Jewish-Israeli militias expelled the vast majority of Palestinians from what would became Israel.

They make up some 20 percent of the country's population.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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