Bernie Sanders Scott Olson | getty images

Sanders’s Silence on Israel

As usual, Israel has featured prominently in the US presidential campaign, with Republicans and Hillary Clinton alike declaring their unwavering support for the country. Yet Bernie Sanders – the only Jew in the race – has avoided saying much of anything about Israel, which reflects a distinctive feature of American Jewish identity.

BOSTON – No foreign country features as prominently in American presidential election campaigns as Israel, and those aspiring to occupy the world’s most powerful political office, whether Republican or Democrat, routinely proclaim their support for that tiny and distant country. Yet, in the current crop of candidates, one has refrained from making any such proclamations: Bernie Sanders. With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) having just invited all of the presidential candidates to address its annual policy conference next week in Washington, DC, this may be about to change.

The fact that Sanders has barely said anything about Israel on the campaign trail is certainly unusual for a presidential contender nowadays. But what makes it even more remarkable is the fact that he is the only Jewish candidate in the race. So why has Sanders been relatively silent on Israel?

To some extent, Sanders’s silence can be explained by his broader aversion to discussing foreign-policy issues. He knows that Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, is far more experienced in this area, and that support for his campaign is based largely on his pledge to address domestic economic inequality and social injustice. Sanders has stuck to his populist economic message with great discipline, and this has inevitably meant that many other issues get little, if any, attention.