Jill Stein is hoping to pick up the mantle of Bernie Sanders’s leftist revolution — and she’s not afraid to openly slam Hillary Clinton on Israel.
The Green Party presidential candidate is pushing sharply divergent positions on the Palestinians, U.S. military aid to Israel, Sheldon Adelson, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Two weeks ago, when Sanders first endorsed Clinton, Stein called on his followers to join her instead. It was unclear if they would heed her call. But as thousands gathered each afternoon near Philadelphia city hall this week, holding “Feel the Burn” banners yet chanting “Jill not Hill,” and accompanying her on a march across the city, it seems she succeeded better than anyone could have expected.
On Wednesday, an op-ed in The New York Times noted that if she manages to gather the support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate by September, Stein could participate in the presidential debate. This would introduce her to millions of voters and then, in a campaign where many are uninspired by the two leading candidates, “all bets are off.” (Of course, the same applies for the other “third party candidate,” Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.)
As her fans chanted her name while listening to Princeton professor Cornel West – another Sanders supporter who defected to Stein’s camp recently – the Green Party leader shares her views on Israel and her vision for the U.S.-Israel relationship with Haaretz.
“There are forces in the United States that are supporting the darker forces in Israel – [people] like Sheldon Adelson, who has been supporting the Netanyahu government, subsidizing it by millions of dollars per month from what I understand,” says Stein.
“So it’s interesting that it’s sort of [this] predatory oligarchy around the world that’s fanning the flames of war. It’s completely unacceptable and unjust that a war hawk in the United States should be inflicting a militaristic policy on Israel. And he doesn’t even live there, so he doesn’t have to live with the consequences of the policy his money is promoting,” she adds.
Stein stresses she would change the Israel-U.S. relationship, especially those between the United States and the Netanyahu government. She would make U.S. support for Israel contingent upon Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians and ending the occupation. And unlike President Barack Obama, Stein would not allow Israel to receive U.S. military aid while ignoring American calls for a peace deal.
“With all humility,” she says, “I would say to the Netanyahu government that we are turning the page in the United States and are now creating a foreign policy based on law and human rights. That we are going to put all of our neighbors and all of our allies on notice that, in the same way we are turning over a new leaf, we expect them to turn over a new leaf – and that in the future, our support and subsidies will be contingent on supporting international law and human rights.”
She continues: “Home demolitions, occupation, assassination, apartheid – many of these things the U.S. government is also doing now, so I say this with all due humility: We need to lead the way, because in countries all over the world this kind of oligarchy is destroying us. We have all become the targets here; injustice anywhere has become a real justice everywhere. We must have a world made of principle that can do away with these needless wars and violations of human rights.”
Also unlike Sanders, who focused on domestic policy and economic inequality during his campaign, Stein is focusing on American foreign policy – especially the arms industry. Ex-Bernie followers who have crossed over to Stein have now switched their line of attack against the Democratic presidential nominee: Old slogans about Clinton’s supposed allegiance to Wall Street have been replaced with accusations of warmongering. “No one is more of a warmonger than Hillary herself!” Stein said at a Philly rally on Monday, to applause.
“Hillary does not recognize Palestinian human rights, she does not recognize it as an issue, and the Democratic Party refuses to take this as a cause. They will not even pretend to care about Palestinian human rights,” Stein tells Haaretz. She believes American public interest in Middle Eastern issues is greater than ever, and that a desire for a change in foreign policy is one of the draws of her campaign.
“We’re all on the same small boat,” she says. “Right now, the boat is going down and we need to take our ship into our [own] hands – because it’s the foxes running the chicken coup for their own profiteering purposes, especially the weapons industry, which is deciding our foreign policy based on selling weapons and instigating conflict around the world.”
Stein dodges questions about her specific vision for Israel and Palestine, or her views on the two-state solution. Instead, she says it’s up to the people of Israel and Palestine to decide on the solution, while Americans can aid the local groups working on these issues.
“The good people of Israel and Palestine are getting together, in grassroots groups, for human rights, and we should support them in their attempt to get past this horrible gridlock that the United States has enabled. This is upon the people of Israel and Palestine, on the basis of human rights, to continue building confidence and find the way out of this.”
Eyeing her supporters, Stein says the U.S. presidential election, which has been especially unpredictable this year, might also bring new opportunities for Israel.
“We are watching the unraveling of politics as we know it, which creates tremendous opportunities,” she says. “There is a way going forward, and it’s time to stand up and demand it. We say, forget the lesser evil, fight for the greater good. There are enough of us that, the minute we stand up for our conviction, we have all the momentum [and] all the conviction we need to go forward.”