Bernard Sanders, who is Jewish, was born in 1941 and is currently serving as the junior United States Senator from Vermont. Senator Sanders was reelected in the U.S. Senate in 2018 and his seat will be up for election again in 2024. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President in 2020.

The longest-serving independent in congressional history, Sanders was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 and has caucused with the Democratic Party since. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate after 16 years as Vermont’s sole congressman in the House of Representatives. Prior to that, he served for four terms as the Mayor of Burlington.

Senator Sanders is currently the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee. He also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Below is Senator Sanders’ voting record and public positions on issues important to the Jewish community. 

Senator Sanders has declared that he does not support the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that targets Israel, but has been reluctant to support legislation that counter it.

In September 2019, the Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign chose pro-BDS and anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour to be a surrogate for his Presidential campaign. In her remarks behind a Sanders-branded podium, Sarsour said: “At a time of a startling rise in white nationalism and anti-Semitism, I would be so proud to win, but also to make history and elect the first Jewish American president this country has ever seen and for his name to be Bernard Sanders.” Sarsour also says that Sanders believes in a foreign policy “that sees Palestinians as human beings deserving of human rights and self-determination.” 

In late August, Senator Sanders said he was “humbled” to receive the official endorsement of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) union, which was the first American labor organization to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel in 2015.

In response to Israel’s decision to ban the entry of Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Senator Sanders criticized the move tweeting: “Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy. The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in.”

Senator Sanders believes that American defense aid to Israel should be used as leverage to pressure Israel, and has spoken about it several times during his campaign:

  • In response to Israel’s decision to bar the entry of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) into Israel, Senator sanders tweeted: “If Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t want members of Congress to visit Israel, then maybe he can respectfully decline $3.8 billion in annual funding—the largest amount of U.S. aid to any country.”
  • In an August 2019 event in New Hampshire, Sanders said: “The United States government gives a whole lot of money to Israel and I think we can leverage that money to end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel.”
  • When asked in a July 2019 interview on the Pod Save America podcast with Jon Favreau whether he’d consider using U.S. aid to Israel to pressure the Israeli government on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Senator Sanders said “absolutely.” “Our policy cannot just be pro-Israel, pro-Israel, pro-Israel,” he said. “It has got to be pro-region, working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area.”
  • During a conference speech in October 2019, Senator Sanders referred to Israel in and stated that “if you want military aid, you are going to have to fundamentally change your relationship with the people of Gaza.” He also added that he believes “it is fair to think that some of that $3.8 billion [US aid to Israel] should go to humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Senator Sanders supported the Iran Deal, as he argued that the alternative was to go to war with Iran and that should be the last option. Recently he suggested that he would reenter the Iran deal if Iran abides by it and he is elected President.

Senator Sanders supports the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and believes that the right of return to Israel for Palestinians should be decided during direct negotiations between the two parties. He was against the move of the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem believing that it would undermine the prospects for a peace agreement. He said that moving back the U.S. embassy to Tel Aviv “would be on the table if Israel continues to take steps, such as settlement expansion, expulsions and home demolitions, that undermine the chances for a peace agreement.”

Senator Sanders expressed support for the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which claims that Israel’s settlements have no legal validity, and applauded the decision of President Obama’s administration to not veto it.

In 2019, he was one the Democrats that voted against the Strengthening America’s Middle East Security Act which, among other things strengthens Israel’s security, and allows a state or local government to adopt measures to divest its assets from entities that boycott Israel.

Recently, Senator Sanders called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition a “right-wing, dare I say, racist government” and that “Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.” Senator Sanders stated that he “is not anti-Israel”, but that he believes “the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis”. 

Senator Sanders is an original cosponsor of Senate Resolution 234 – introduced in Congress on June 5th, 2019 – which reaffirms the commitment of the U.S. to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and argues that Israeli annexation of territory in the West Bank would undermine peace and Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. 

Following the November 2019 announcement of President Trump’s administration that it would no longer view Israeli settlements as “inconsistent with international law”, Senator Sanders stated that “Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal…this is clear from international law and multiple United Nations resolutions.” He argued that “once again, Mr. Trump is isolating the United States and undermining diplomacy by pandering to his extremist base.”

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Chose Linda Sarsour as surrogate https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/political-activist-linda-sarsour-emerges-as-surrogate-for-bernie-sanders-2020-presidential-campaign

Criticized Israel’s decision to ban Omar and Tlaib: https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/1162018186818203648

Supported the Iran deal https://berniesanders.com/issues/war-should-be-the-last-option/0

Supports conditioning U.S. aid to Israel and using it as leverage https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/467772-sanders-floats-leveraging-aid-to-israel-to-push-for-policy-changes

Use U.S. aid to pressure Israel: https://www.jns.org/sanders-says-he-would-absolutely-consider-cutting-us-military-aid-to-pressure-israel/

Supports Reentering the Iran nuclear deal https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/five-democratic-presidential-candidates-say-they-would-rejoin-iran-deal

Voted Against the Strengthening America’s Middle East Security Act of 2019 https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=116&session=1&vote=00016 

Did not support the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-statement-on-trumps-plan-to-recognize-jerusalem-as-the-capital-of-Israel

Open to reverse the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/politics/2020-democrats-israel-foreign-policy.html

Supports the Two-State Solution http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-israel-and-the-palestinians/

Opposed the Israel Anti-Boycott Act https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-feinstein-oppose-inclusion-of-israel-anti-boycott-act-in-appropriations-bill 

Supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334 https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/read-in-full-bernie-sanders-speech-to-j-street-conference-1.5442941

Comments on Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/440128-bernie-sanders-slams-netanyahus-government-racist 

Original Cosponsor of Senate Resolution 234 https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-resolution/234/cosponsors

Position on Israeli settlement activity https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/1196527568704458752?s=20

Right of Return for Palestinians to be decided during direct negotiations  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/politics/2020-democrats-israel-foreign-policy.html

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