It’s also, as Shadi Hamid pointed out on Twitter, a low bar.
Still, tonight’s debate was a rarity in American politics: a moment when the Palestinian people were discussed as if they were ordinary people, and not a fiction, or terrorists, or terrorists-in-waiting. More importantly, Sanders argued that one can still be pro-Israel while criticizing the country for its disproportionate responses to Palestinian provocations.
“I do believe that Israel ... has every right to destroy terrorism. But in Gaza there were 10,000 wounded civilians and 1,500 killed. Was that a disproportionate attack? The answer is, I believe, it was,” Sanders said. “As somebody who is 100 percent pro-Israel, in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace ... we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”
Sanders’s position could cost him in New York, because everything he’s said could alienate pro-Israel voters. But he has prompted the most substantive debate about Israel this election cycle, and is the first national politician in a long, long time to have enlarged the discourse surrounding this issue.