Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win U.S. primaries and convention delegates, Sunday called for a more “balanced” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the needs of the Palestinian people must be addressed.

Both the Vermont senator and rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended Israel’s right to exist without fear of terror attacks in separate interviews on CNN’s “State of the Union,” but Sanders said Israel’s response to Palestinian rocket attacks was disproportionate.

Sanders, who skipped the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention last month citing a scheduling conflict, described his position as more “balanced,” saying Palestinians need to be treated with “dignity and respect.”

“This is the way I see it, whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish. I would hope every person … wants to see the misery of conflict end in the Middle East. … All I’m saying is that as somebody pro-Israeli … who supports Israel’s right to exist in peace and in security, I think the only way we succeed is if the United States is if the United States plays a role. But you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people. …

“You can’t just be concerned only about Israel’s needs. You have to be concerned about the needs of all the people in the region.”

operation protective edge An Israeli reservist troop prays near the Israeli-Gaza border, July 18, 2014. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The last round of major conflict between Israel and the Palestinians resulted in 2,200 Palestinian deaths, including women and children, along with 71 Israelis and a Thai civilian.

“When you are being attacked with rockets raining down on your people and your soldiers are under attack, you have to respond,” Clinton said.

“Hamas provokes Israel. They often pretend to have people in civilian garb acting as though they are civilians who are Hamas fighters. It’s a very difficult undertaking for Israel to target those who are targeting them. … It did not go seeking this. This was promoted by Hamas, and I support Israel’s right of self-defense.”

On other issues:

  • Clinton denied she was responsible for the rise of the Islamic State group, saying the blame should be placed on Iran and Russia.
  • Sanders, both on CNN and on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq and “disastrous” trade agreements, coupled without her acceptance of campaign contributions from billionaires raises questions about her judgment to be president, while Clinton refused to rise to the bait, saying, “I don’t have anything negative to say about him.” Both candidates agreed the party will need to be unified to keep Donald Trump or Ted Cruz out of the White House.
  • Clinton defended 1990s legislation that increased incarceration rates as necessary at the time but said the consequences of those laws need to be addressed now, saying people who should never have been jailed currently are behind bars.
  • On minimum wage, Clinton said she supports raising the rate nationally to $12 but encourages high cost-of-living areas to move toward $15.
  • Sanders touted his momentum in the primaries, saying he has cut Clinton’s delegate lead by a third in the last month. He denied he needs to win New York to capture the 2,383 needed for the nomination.