Schumer calls for new government, 'course corrections' by Israel

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for new elections in Israel, describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as an “obstacle to peace” amid his country’s ongoing war in Gaza.

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in U.S. history, urged Israel to “do better,” citing the estimated tens of thousands of Palestinian civilian casualties caused by the Netanyahu government’s military offensive aimed at neutralizing the terrorist group Hamas.

The New York Democrat said Israel “must make some significant course corrections” as the conflict nears the half-year mark.

“The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after Oct. 7,” Schumer said in floor remarks. “The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

Schumer said if the Netanyahu government remains in power the U.S. would need to play “a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course” and that President Joe Biden’s administration should ensure U.S. assistance to Israel is “aligned with our broader goal of achieving long-term peace and stability in the region.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to blast Schumer’s “unprecedented” criticism of Netanyahu.

“It is grotesque and hypocritical for Americans who hyperventilate about foreign interference in our own democracy to call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of Israel,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor after Schumer spoke. “Make no mistake: The Democratic Party doesn’t have an anti-Bibi problem. It has an anti-Israel problem.”

He wasn’t alone. House Republican leaders read an impromptu press statement while in West Virginia for their annual retreat to blast Schumer for weighing in on the future of the Israeli government.

Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters that Schumer’s comments were “not only highly inappropriate, it’s just plain wrong for an American leader to play such a divisive role in Israeli politics, while our closest ally in the region is an existential battle.”

And Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog criticized Schumer’s remarks in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter: “It is unhelpful, all the more so as Israel is at war against the genocidal terror organization Hamas, to comment on the domestic political scene of a democratic ally. It is counterproductive to our common goals.” He is slated to speak to House Republicans on Thursday during their retreat.

Schumer’s remarks amount to a forceful rebuke from a staunch ally of Israel. They follow a tougher tack toward Netanyahu from Biden in recent days, though progressives have demanded even stronger U.S. action against the prime minister.

Schumer, who opposed the Obama administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, identified four obstacles to peace in the region: Hamas, “radical right-wing Israelis in government and society,” Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas — whom he called on to step aside as well.

“For there to be any hope of peace in the future, Abbas must step down and be replaced by a new generation of Palestinian leaders who will work towards attaining peace with a Jewish state,” Schumer said.

Schumer, who visited the region shortly after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, said the U.S. must forcefully pursue a two-state solution and let that goal drive diplomatic positioning.

“We should not be forced into a position of unequivocally supporting the actions of an Israeli government that includes bigots who reject the idea of a Palestinian state,” Schumer said.

Schumer also made clear that he sees Netanyahu as disinterested in doing what’s necessary to pave the way for that Palestinian state.

“Nobody expects Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the things that must be done to break the cycle of violence, preserve Israel’s credibility on the world stage, and work towards a two-state solution,” he said, blasting the intolerably high civilian death toll from Israeli operations to counter Hamas.

His speech won quick kudos from progressives, with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) lauding it on X as “gutsy, historic.” Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) walked up and gave Schumer a hug after the leader wrapped up his remarks.

But the praise for his move was not universal on the left.

Liberal-leaning Jewish group IfNotNow said Schumer’s comments didn’t go far enough given his broader support for continued U.S. aid to Israel, demanding in a statement that he “call for a lasting ceasefire, reverse course on weapons transfers, and push for Israel to dismantle its systems of occupation and apartheid over Palestinians.”

“I’m anguished that the Israeli war campaign has killed so many innocent Palestinians. I know that my fellow Jewish Americans feel the same anguish when they see the images of dead and starving children — and destroyed homes,” Schumer said.

“We must be better than our enemies, lest we become them,” he added.

Jordain Carney contributed from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Source link