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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

Aug 25, 2021 - World

U.S. has options if Iran talks fail, officials say ahead of Israeli PM's visit

Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty

If diplomacy fails, the U.S. will consider using other means to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, senior Biden administration officials said in a briefing ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to the White House.

Why it matters: Iran is the main agenda item for Bennett's visit, and he is expected to push for a "Plan B" now that nuclear talks have stalled. The U.S. officials didn't say what exactly the administration would consider but are clearly trying to reassure the Israelis that they are willing to pressure Iran.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker