By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) – Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced Monday he will not attend a forthcoming conference organized by a pro-Israel lobby group that serves as a platform to "express bigotry."
"The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people," Sanders, a front-runner in the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, said on Twitter.
"I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason, I will not attend their conference."
Sanders reiterated his support for a two-state solution in the region, saying: "As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region."
Scheduled from March 1-3 in Washington, the AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest gathering of America's pro-Israel community.
The senator is known for his criticism of President Donald Trump's so-called Deal of the Century, which was unveiled late January.
According to him, the plan, meant to end one of the world's longest running disputes, "will only perpetuate the conflict" between the two countries.
"The United States can bring unequaled leadership to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we must use that leadership to promote a just and durable agreement. Any acceptable peace deal must be consistent with international law and multiple UN resolutions," Sanders had tweeted immediately after the plan was announced.
"It must end the Israeli occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination in an independent state of their own alongside a secure Israel," he said. "Trump's so-called 'peace deal' doesn't come close, and will only perpetuate the conflict. It is unacceptable."
The so-called peace plan unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and has drawn criticism for giving Israel almost everything it has sought while giving Palestinian demands short shrift.
In addition to recognizing the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital," Trump's "peace plan" ticks off a series of check-list items long-sought by Israel right-wingers, including U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over illegal settlement communities constructed in the occupied West Bank and the annexation of the Jordan Valley, which runs along the entirety of the territory's eastern flank.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Israeli settlement-building activity illegal.
The plan was rejected by Palestine as well as bodies including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League.