Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sen. Chuck Schumer addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2014. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's longtime support for Israel puts him on a collision course with the progressive wing of his party as the conflict between Israel and Hamas worsens.

Why it matters: This is the toughest political position the New York Democrat has been in since becoming majority leader. The fighting in the Middle East is dividing his party — and creating a clear rift among its different wings.

  • Deepening the challenge: Schumer is up for re-election next year and one of his potential opponents — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — is one of the most vocal progressive critics of the actions taken by Israel's leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • While President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are similarly boxed in after ascending to power in a pro-Israel environment, Schumer faces this problem most acutely.

The backdrop: Schumer, the first Jewish Senate majority leader, rose to prominence in part thanks to a career in New York politics built on a foundation of pro-Israel credentials.

  • He frequently bucked President Obama on Middle East policy, including opposing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
  • That put him at odds with the majority of his party but aligned him with Israel. He later criticized President Trump for leaving the deal and said a new agreement should be negotiated.
  • In 2019, Schumer delivered a speech at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting in which he said: "You can be, all at once, completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel and completely American."
  • It was a poke at another Squad member — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — who had leveled sharp criticisms against supporters of Israel.

Flash-forward to the current crisis. So far, Schumer has largely been silent even as other historically fierce defenders of Israel, such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), have spoken up.

  • Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shocked his colleagues over the weekend when he said he was "deeply troubled" by Netanyahu's military actions. The statement turned the heads of Israel's top politicians, Axios' Barak Ravid said.
  • Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), who's Jewish, led a group of 29 Democratic senators in calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
  • Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) — the top members of the Foreign Relations' Middle East subcommittee — issued the first bipartisan statement in support of a ceasefire.

Schumer told reporters Monday he agrees with the Murphy-Young statement and wants to see a ceasefire "reached quickly."

  • He did not discuss the issue during his floor remarks — one of the most prominent stages he commands as majority leader.
  • His comments came shortly before Biden announced he backed a ceasefire for the first time during a call with Netanyahu.
  • Meanwhile, a series of progressives have condemned Israel's behavior under Netanyahu.

Between the lines: Schumer has worked diligently to solidify his support on the left, strengthening his position against Ocasio-Cortez or another progressive in 2022.

  • Navigating the current crisis in the Middle East — particularly when his fellow members are being far more vocal on the issue — is a foreign policy challenge that has a larger domestic impact on him.

Go deeper

May 17, 2021 - World

Schumer: "I want to see a ceasefire"

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday he wants to "see a ceasefire reach quickly and mourn the loss of life."

Why it matters: Schumer is a staunch defender of Israel and has maintained that Israel should be able to defend itself.

May 16, 2021 - World

Most of Congress silent on Israeli-Palestinian fighting

A Palestinian boy mourns an airstrike victim on Sunday. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

The pitched criticism by conservatives over progressive outrage about the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians overshadows a larger silence by the vast majority of Congress.

Why it matters: In the largely permissive environment, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ratcheting up its military engagement in Gaza. The death toll is rising, and a spectacular weekend attack leveled a building housing the Associated Press and other outside media.

May 17, 2021 - World

Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.