Yesh Atid chairman and former Finance Minister MK Yair Lapid published a scathing critique of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday, following Sanders's claim that Israel "killed 10,000 Palestinians" during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.
"The problem with the claim made by the senator isn’t so much the factual mistake — mistakes happen — but that it reflects everything Hamas’ propaganda arm, with the support of anti-Israel BDS organizations, tried to sell to the world over the past two years," Lapid stated, in an op-ed in the New York Daily News. Sanders made the claim in an interview with the paper earlier this week.
"The truth is that Israel didn’t use disproportionate force. In fact, in the history of war there was never a greater effort by a military force to avoid civilian casualties," he added, taking on another claim by the presidential candidate.
Lapid, one of eight security cabinet members during the operation, then described the "unprecedented" measures the IDF took to prevent hurting innocent people.
"The IDF was the first military to phone ahead and inform people that an air strike was coming in their area," he noted. "Where the phone network was down, leaflets were dropped from the sky."
"We used satellites not to locate targets but to ensure areas were clear of civilian populations. Dozens of air strikes were canceled at the last moment purely because aerial images showed civilians in the vicinity," he added. "In many, infuriating, cases it allowed terrorists to escape, but we preferred that to harming civilians. That effort had a price."
By contrast, he said, Hamas continued to pummel Israeli civilians with rockets, "to kill and injure as many innocent civilians as possible." The gap in casualties, he noted, is due to the Iron Dome Missile Defense system.
"As happens in the era of modern technology, Israel faces an inherent disadvantage," Lapid concluded. "The fact that we are a democracy prevents us from countering lies with lies."
"When a Jewish candidate for President of the United States quotes the lies of Hamas without checking, we have a reason to worry."
Sanders slips up
Sanders made wild accusations against Israel on Thursday, saying, "10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?”
“I don’t have it in my number … but I think it’s over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed."
"So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been,” he said.
Sanders was way off on the number, however, as nearly 2,300 Palestinian Arabs were killed and another 10,000 wounded. Israeli research found that at least half of the casualties were terrorists.
The comments elicited criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, which called on Sanders to publicly correct his statement.
Despite this, Sanders's campaign denied he ever made the claim late Thursday night, saying his comments were "distorted."