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Significance of Schumer’s Denouncement of Netanyahu and Call for New Israeli Elections 

posted on: Mar 20, 2024

Senator Charles Schumer’s Visit to Israel in 2023

By: Ghassan Rubeiz / Arab America Contributing Writer

The full impact of the brave speech of Charles Schumer is hard to judge. 

When Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, Israelis were on the brink of a civil war, struggling with the issue of the power of the Supreme Court. Liberal groups were organizing massive street demonstrations to preserve the power of a secular Supreme Court. 

October 7 Changed The Political Scene

The trauma of October 7 radically changed the dynamics of Israeli politics. Spontaneously, opposing factions in Israeli society united against Palestinian resistance. The ensuing war on Hamas quickly turned genocidal. The carnage in Gaza has stirred the conscience of mainstream America and its Jewish community in particular.  The carnage has also tarnished Israel’s international image. While the war in Gaza has led to the suspension of civil conflict within Israeli society, it has generated an ideological rift between the Jewish American community and the Jewish citizens of Israel. With concern for the future security of Israel, a sizable portion of America’s Jews oppose Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. This rift is not totally new, but it has been dormant for decades and ignored.

Schumer’s Speech is a Step in The Right Direction

The March 14 speech of Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer analyzing Israel’s current politics and the conduct of the Gaza war on the floor of the Senate may turn out to be a watershed moment. Courageously, the highest-ranking, elected Jewish American official spoke out: Palestinian and Israeli leadership are not serving their people well; enough with hate; indiscriminate Palestinian carnage is not acceptable; Israel must work for a two-state solution; Israel’s right wing politics could turn Israel into a pariah in the eyes of the world community.

The Democrats’ leading senator stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Perhaps, he could not afford to spend more political capital: he clearly called for the election of a substitute for Prime Minster Netanyahu. Schumer is aware that the overwhelming majority of Israelis want to have Netanyahu out of office. He is also aware that the majority of Israelis are willing to go on with fighting, purportedly until Hamas is “defeated”.  For his speech, Schumer anticipated Republican pushback, the opposition of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the possibility of being misunderstood by Israeli society.   

Netanyahu and his Republican supporters in the US are furious with Schumer for calling for new elections in Israel. Schumer’s critics claim that Americans have no right to “interfere” in domestic Israeli politics. Naturally Israel’s cabinet leaders reacted defensively to Schumer’s daring speech. 

But Schumer is confident that he is acting in Israel’s interest by speaking out against Netanyahu’s execution of a ruthless and counterproductive war in Gaza. 

The Claim of Domestic Political Interference is Hollow

The claim that Schumer has no right to comment on Israel’s domestic politics rings hollow. Objecting to meddling in Israel’s affairs would have been sensible if Israel were able to execute its war in Gaza without US military, financial and diplomatic support. Israel is slated to receive 14 billion dollars and continued shipments of armaments in the near future from the US. 

Such defense would be justified if the IDF were able to defeat Hamas without destroying Gaza, killing tens of thousands of civilians and subjecting the people of Gaza to starvation.

As a result of this carnage, the US has been isolated diplomatically for financing and equipping Gaza’s war. Israel Defense Forces are violating US foreign aid’s laws in the use of US lethal weapons (

The image of the world Jewish community is affected by what is happening in Gaza. America’s Jewish citizens, who are active in liberal causes, are wrestling morally with having to live with the massacre, and plausible genocide, of Palestinians by the Jewish state.  

Defense of sovereignty would have made sense if Netanyahu had not interfered with US domestic politics- by openly siding with Republicans in US domestic politics. He has over the years clashed with several American presidents and aggressively interfered in US diplomacy toward Iran. 

The strength of the Israeli lobby in the US is an indication of Israeli meddling in Washington. Israel’s war on Gaza is raising the chances for a regional war with Iran, a conflagration in which the US would have to be involved. 

At the cost of being diplomatically isolated, the US has protected Israel in the UN Security Council on every major issue which threatens Israel’s reputation. 

Considering all the above, it is difficult to determine which of the two sides, the US or Israel, is the dominant partner, in such a symbiotic relationship. Most Americans and Israelis are closely interdependent, politically and culturally. President Biden once asserted that if Israel had not existed, America would have had to “invent” it.  

Israel Must Listen to its Close Friends

When Israel’s true friends caution Israel to change its course, Israel should listen. When influential American leaders and public opinion makers like Biden, Schumer, former House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria express concern over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Israel ought to pay attention (

Schumer’s Motives Probed

Many Palestinians wonder why Schumer waited so long to speak his mind, and ask why he did not call for a permanent ceasefire. Was he primarily interested in winning Arab American votes? Does he think that the next prime minister of Israel would be willing to address the aspirations of Palestinians? There are possibly other reasons to doubt Schumer’s motives for speaking out now. Regardless of what Schumer had in mind in his March 14 speech, one can argue that he has realized that Israel’s war on Gaza is hurting US interests and could expose the state of Israel to existential peril. Schumer is courageous to call for change in Israel’s politics, given the immense blowback he anticipated and received.

Expected Impact of Speech Remains to Be Seen

Would Schumer’s admonition stop Netanyahu’s self-serving military adventures in Gaza and beyond? The Israeli prime minister is still preparing his troops to launch his “final” campaign to “finish with Hamas” (

There is a slim chance that Schumer’s words may help efforts toward ending the war, freeing the hostages and starting the dialogue for the political future of Gaza and the rest of Palestinians. But these words surely indicate that the Biden administration is too weak to use America’s leverage with Israel. Schumer has said what Biden could not say after five months of a catastrophic Gaza war. If the President had been more firm with Israel, Schumer would not have had to give this speech.

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