Updated Mar 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Schumer calls for Israel elections and slams Netanyahu

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters after the weekly Senate Democrats caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on March 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the highest-ranking Jewish lawmaker, levied some of the harshest criticism yet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a top U.S. official, calling on Israel to hold elections for a new government to deal with the threat of Hamas.

Why it matters: Democrats have felt increasing pressure from their left to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and be tougher on Israel, while also standing with a key ally.

  • Schumer had largely stayed away from criticizing the Israeli government and Netanyahu in recent months.
  • His remarks come as President Biden and other Democrats are wary of alienating progressive voters who are concerned about Israel's attacks that have killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.

Driving the news: Schumer said in prepared remarks that new elections are the "only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel."

  • Schumer criticized Netanyahu for aligning himself with far-right extremists in the Israeli government, saying he has turned away from a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Biden supports such a plan.
  • "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 toward a two-state solution," Schumer said.

The big picture: Schumer said the four obstacles to a two-state solution are Hamas, far-right extremists in the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and Netanyahu.

The other side: Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog fired back, "Israel is a sovereign democracy. 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.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also rebuked Schumer for his remarks, labeling the Democrat's call for new Israeli elections as "unprecedented."
  • "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," McConnell said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with McConnell and Herzog's response.

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