U.S. presidential candidates expand on Israel stances on CNN’s ‘Final Five’

Sen. Benie Sanders (I-Vt.), the only presidential candidate not to speak at the AIPAC conference, speaks to CNN's Anderson Cooper during Monday night's "Final Five" interviews. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube.

The five remaining Republican and Democratic presidential candidates expanded on their political views about Israel on CNN’s "Final Five" interviews Monday night.

The candidates, nearly all of whom gave remarks on Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, were asked to expand on their views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich said there are ways to negotiate between the Israelis and Palestinians through “back channels,” and that the Palestinian Authority has “been feeding a lot of hatred” as well as “teaching their kids about suicide killings and all these other crazy things.”

“A two-state solution is possible,” Kasich said, but there are “some preconditions.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he would “move the [American] embassy [in Israel] to Jerusalem,” criticizing past Republican and Democrat presidents who failed to take that step.

Businessman Donald Trump, who has been criticized for his self-described “neutral” position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said he would love to achieve peace between both sides, but that first the Palestinians must “end terror…with the missiles [from Gaza] and the stabbings.”

“It’s horrible, and it’s gotta end,” Trump said. “I believe that Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), and almost everybody over there [in Israel], wants a deal.” He also criticized the involvement of the United Nations, saying that “this has to be a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. You can’t force a deal down the throats of both.”

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that while there have been “differences” of opinion between the American and Israeli administrations, “in general the relationship [between the U.S. and Israel] remains very strong and central to American foreign policy.”

Clinton cited the many years she has known Netanyahu as one of her advantages as a candidate for president, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the two have engaged in “vigorous debate.”

“I like that. We have a raucous democracy. Israel has a raucous democracy….A give and take between friends is the best and most honest way to come to any resolution,” she said.

Clinton also said she would use her veto power as president to protect Israel at the United Nations, and expressed doubt that a United Nations-imposed settlement would work. A settlement “has to be hashed out between the two parties,” Clinton said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was the only presidential candidate not to give remarks at the AIPAC conference, said that "Israel has the right to defend itself. Period." But he refused to say whether he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and criticized some of “the behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” such as his March 2015 speech before a joint session of Congress, which Sanders boycotted.

Sanders also said that the U.S. “has time and time again has looked aside when Israel has done some bad things,” such as “the growth of settlements in Palestinian territory” and the “destruction wrecked on Gaza” in 2014.

A day after the "Final Five" interviews, and in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks on Tuesday, Netanyahu brought up the issue of Israeli construction in the disputed territories, reiterating his view that stopping such construction would not yield peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“In all these cases, the terrorists have no resolvable grievances. It’s not as if we can offer them Brussels, or Istanbul, or even the West Bank…because what they seek is our utter destruction and their total domination,” he said.

Posted on March 22, 2016 .