New York Times: Meet the Candidates: Responses to “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?”

The New York Times asked 2020 candidates the question, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Their responses are below:

Kamala Harris
Senator from California, 54

Harris: “I think that Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy and is one of our closest friends in that region, and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.”

Reporter: “Does Israel meet human rights standards to your personal satisfaction?”

Harris: “Well, talk in more detail, what specifically are you referring to?”

Reporter: “As a country overall, in terms of how they…”

Harris: “Overall, yes.”

Pete Buttigieg
Mayor of South Bend, Ind., 37

Buttigieg: “I think that Israel’s human rights record is problematic and moving in the wrong direction under the current right-wing government. Look, the U.S. can be committed to Israeli security and the U.S.-Israeli alliance while also guiding our ally in a direction that leads toward peace. And I’m very worried, especially with some of their latest talk about annexation in the West Bank, that their government is moving away from peace that is damaging in the long run to Israeli and Palestinian, and for that matter American, interests.”

John Delaney
Former congressman from Maryland, 56

Delaney: “I think Israel does meet international standards of human rights. I think I is in a very difficult situation when they are surrounded by countries who are effectively threatening their existence and don’t believe they have a right to exist.  So I think that puts them in an exceedingly difficult situation in many respects. I think it is always in the best interest of Israel to make sure to make sure their response to people who are threatening them is as measured and appropriate as possible.  But, in terms of your direct question, I do think they meet human rights standards, absolutely.”

Amy Klobuchar
Senator from Minnesota, 59

Klobuchar: “Yes. I think Israel, however, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, has been doing things that are not helpful to bringing peace to the Middle East. The way that he has come out in favor of annexing the Golan Heights. What he has done when it comes to the settlements. The fact that we’re not engaging in serious discussion for a two-state solution, our country and the Palestinians and the Israelis, I think that this is setting us back. And so what I would do is to reach out to restart those negotiations again. I think that President Trump has politicized this issue and has not helped in terms of American support for Israel. Israel is our beacon of democracy in the Mideast. And we have a role to play here that is very important, and it shouldn’t be politicized the way the Trump administration has politicized it. And when Israel does things that I think are against public policy and international policy, I will call them out on it, and I will work with them. But again, I think the way President Trump has done this has made it harder and harder for people to support Israel, and you’re seeing a lot of young people that have fallen away from supporting this beacon of democracy in the Mideast, and I think that needs to change.”

Cory Booker
Senator from New Jersey, 50

Booker: “I think we have a problem in America with the way we are debating issues surrounding Israel and Israel’s security. We have a president that seems to not support this idea of a two-state solution, which has had bipartisan commitment and conviction over decades in our past. My commitment right now is to affirming Israel’s right to exist and affirming Israel’s right to defend itself against enemies which they have virtually surrounding them. But also to affirm the dignity and self-determination of Palestinian people. I believe we can get back to the kind of policies that affirm that two-state solution, that affirm human rights, and that America can be a force to accomplishing that in Israel.”

Beto O’Rourke
Former congressman from Texas, 46

O’Rourke: “You know I think that it’s a very complicated relationship that Israel obviously has with Hamas and with dealings with the Gaza strip and the west bank.  I think that the United States needs to play a much bigger role in trying to resolve that problem.  I think the President has been very disengaged and we need to be a neutral broker. But recognizing the importance of the Israel and the relationship we have with them for all of the other relationships that we have in the region.  … I think that they could do a better job and we need to all participate in the discussion.  The United States needs to maintain in some levels its ability to broker these peace agreements.  The problem today is that we’re not even really trying.”

Elizabeth Warren
Senator from Massachusetts, 70

Warren: “I think there are many countries, including the United States, that behaves in ways that do not always meet international standards of human rights.  As president of the United States I would have an equally robust commitment to both the legitimate security concerns of Israel and the human rights of the Palestinians and the economic hopes and opportunities and dignity of the Palestinian people.”

Bernie Sanders
Senator from Vermont, 77

Sanders: “I have great concerns about the role that Netanyahu is playing in Israel and their relationship with the Palestinians. As I’ve said many times, I believe 100% in the right for Israel not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security. But the role of the United States is to work with all of the entities in the region, including the Palestinians, and to do that in an even-handed way.”

Julián Castro
Former housing secretary, 44

Castro: “I believe that Israel, like a lot of other countries, wants to do the right thing, that they can get better. I do believe that we need to recognize and respect the human rights of Palestinians. I agree with former Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel has to choose. It’s going to be a Jewish state or a democratic state. That’s why I believe that a two-state solution is the best solution for Israel. I recognize that that has been made harder over the years through the increase in settlements. My hope is that in the upcoming elections, the Israeli people will send a stronger message about the need for a two-state solution.”

Bill de Blasio
Mayor of New York City, 58

de Blasio: “I believe in the state of Israel and I think Israel is not only a crucial ally, the one true democracy in the middle east. And they do respect the rights of all people. There’s always more work to be done. And, I’d like to see a two state solution, I think that’s the best way to move forward for peace and human rights for Israel and for the Palestinian people. I think there’s a lot of work to be done. And it begins with a strong commitment to Israel. As a New Yorker where the ties to Israel are so strong, I’ve been to Israel four times, I have spent a lot of time seeing the threats that Israel faces.  I firmly believe that we have to defend the state of Israel and we have to fight against movements to undercut Israel like BDS.  But at the same time I believe that the current Israeli government has made a lot of mistakes that have hindered the peace process. I believe in a two state solution, I think that’s where America should put its energy.  That’s the best way to address both peace and human rights concerns for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Tulsi Gabbard
Congresswoman from Hawaii, 38

Gabbard: “I think that there are some challenges with Israel that need to be addressed. I think that ongoing issues that we continue to see in the conflict between Israel and Palestine are complicated. There needs to be progress made ultimately to make sure that both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are able to live in peace and securely.”

John Hickenlooper
Former governor of Colorado, 67

Hickenlooper: “When you’re addressing the issues around Israel one has to look at their evolution.  For me, they’re at a point now where they are at a crossroads and really have to push towards — how are they going to get to that two state solution.  Which pretty much almost every Israeli I know believes in.  And I think most Americans support that.  But that’s the magic – how are they going to get from here to there.  … Again, there are instances where you can find in almost every country places where there is disagreement of how they treat people or how they resolve internal conflicts.  I continue to look at Israel as one of our strongest allies.  They have been partners with the United States for a long time. Our challenge is to build on that foundation and help them be able to move toward that two state solution. Which again, I think almost every Israeli believes is the ultimate goal.”

Seth Moulton
Congressman from Massachusetts, 40

Moulton: “I think Israel often does, but not always.  And it’s incumbent on us, as an ally, to hold them accountable.  And I’ve done that in Congress.  And I’ve signed legislation that’s sometimes controversial to say that we will not supply Israel with weapons and goods if they do not uphold standards for the treatment of Palestinian kids in prison, for example.  It’s not that hard for them to do this. And Israel is our most important ally in the middle east.  They’re a democracy that we have sworn to protect, and we should.  But, we also have to hold our friends and allies to the same standards that we should uphold ourselves.”

Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator from New York, 52

Gillibrand: “I do and I believe that Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East.  But we also need to care about her neighbors. And make sure that we address humanitarian crises throughout communities, including those where the Palestinians live right now. I think we have to do far more to relieve the suffering in places like the West Bank and Gaza. I think it’s important that we continue to provide humanitarian support. But I think what President Trump has done in the region is very damaging. He’s done things prematurely outside of a long term negotiation for a two-state solution and I think that’s created enormous problems and issues for long term stability.”

Andrew Yang
Former tech executive, 44

Yang: “Israel is a very, very important ally of the U.S. Certainly some of the actions that are being taken there are deeply problematic and run afoul of some of the standards that we’d like to see countries meet. I’d be hesitant to say that they are in violation of those standards.”

Steve Bullock
Governor of Montana, 53

Bullock: “I think that Israel’s a trusted partner, a trusted friend to our country, and will continue to be.  I think that there have been certainly, in the territories, there have been challenges with decisions that currently Netanyahu has made. But I also believe here’s a place where we can step back and turn around and say we can get things back on track.  Work with our allies and get to a two state solution.”

Marianne Williamson
Self-help author, 66

Williamson: “I think there are many countries, including the United States, that behaves in ways that do not always meet international standards of human rights.  As President of the United States I would have an equally robust commitment to both the legitimate security concerns of Israel and the human rights of the Palestinians and the economic hopes and opportunities and dignity of the Palestinian people.”

Michael Bennet
Senator from Colorado, 54

Bennet: “I think Israel – I’ve said before and I believe this – Israel is the one essential country on the planet.  I say that because of my family history during the holocaust.  That doesn’t mean that Israel’s perfect.  Where we have disagreements we should be able to articulate those disagreements.  And I do articulate the disagreements that I’ve had with Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.”

Jay Inslee
Governor of Washington State, 68

Inslee: “I’m a long-time supporter of a democratic Israel.  And I believe we have to have a two-state solution and I would work with all parties to make sure that we have that – justice for people in Palestine and Democracy in Israel.  And that depends on a two-state solution and I would work with everyone to achieve that. … I think that all countries can improve in all respects.  Certainly our ability to foster a future for the Palestinian people needs all of us to up our game.  I do not believe the present government of Israel has followed policies… those policies can improve to encourage the ability and maintain the access of the future to a two-state solution. And we all need to be dedicated to that.”

Tim Ryan
Congressman from Ohio, 45

Ryan: “You know I think that it’s a very complicated relationship that Israel obviously has with Hamas and with dealings with the Gaza strip and the West Bank.  I think that the United States needs to play a much bigger role in trying to resolve that problem.  I think the president has been very disengaged and we need to be a neutral broker. But recognizing the importance of the Israel and the relationship we have with them for all of the other relationships that we have in the region.  … I think that they could do a better job and we need to all participate in the discussion.  The United States needs to maintain in some levels its ability to broker these peace agreements.  The problem today is that we’re not even really trying.”

Eric Swalwell
Congressman from California, 38

Swalwell: “Israel is a country that needs to work with the Palestinian people to find a two-state solution. I support putting the U.S. back into the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.  I support increasing aid to the Palestinian people.  I’m going to fire Jared Kushner on day one because he has no business being on the job of seeking a two-state solution or finding peace in the Middle East.  It requires serious scholars and a serious leader committed to making it happen.  That’s what I’m going to do on day one. … I would like to see Israel not conduct any further settlements into the West Bank. I don’t oppose any geographical changes in either region, Israel or the Palestinian area, until we have a two-state solution.  And so I would press both sides, the Palestinians to sort out who speaks for them, whether it’s the PA or Hamas. And for the Israelis to negotiate and have a partner on the other side to seek that two-state solution.  But I’m more interested in the future, I’m not going to go back to the past because the future depends on a stable and secure Middle East.”