Democratic debate: Biden and Sanders criticise Israel and Saudi

Democratic debate: Biden and Sanders criticise Israel and Saudi Arabia
2 min read
21 November, 2019
'It is no longer simply good enough for us to be pro-Israel. We must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve.'
Candidates were also asked about whether they would sanction Saudi Arabia for murdering Khashoggi. [Getty]
US presidential hopefuls took part in the 5th US Democratic debate on Wednesday evening, where they discussed a range of Middle East foreign policy issues, including the escalating situation in besieged Gaza and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The debate marked a departure from previous debates, where the issue of Palestine and Israel was at a forefront, while some of the contenders challenged the US' relationship with long-term regional ally Saudi Arabia.

"It is no longer simply good enough for us to be pro-Israel. I'm pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve," Senator Bernie Sanders said during the televised debate on Wednesday.

Sanders also received applause from the crowd when he commented on the escalating situation in Gaza, calling it "unsustainable" and citing the staggering 70 percent youth unemployment.

Candidates were also asked about whether they would sanction Saudi Arabia for the murder The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, a killing which has been linked to the kingdom's de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Former Vice-President, Joe Biden, made it clear that Saudi Arabia should "pay the price" for the killing of the journalist, who was also an American resident.

"I would make it very clear, we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them," Biden said, adding that he would "treat them like the pariah that they are".

US intelligence reports linked the killing of Khashoggi in October 2018 directly to the crown prince, but President Donald Trump has continued US-Saudi relations.

Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar, echoed criticisms of President Trump: "when the president did not stand up the way he should to that killing and that dismemberment of a journalist with an American newspaper, that sent a signal to dictators that this was OK ... and that's wrong."

Sanders concluded that Saudi Arabia was "not a reliable ally" and argued that the US should take a central role in "conflict resolution" in the regional rivalry between the kingdom and Iran.

The race for Democratic Party candidate for president exposed the wide-ranging policy stances regarding the Middle East.

Moderate candidates, such as Biden and Klobuchar, support the hefty provision of US funds provided to Israel, while also endorsing a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Candidates to the left, namely Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have been more critical of Israel. Sanders said he wanted to use US funds to "leverage" Israel into ending its occupation of the West Bank.