Schumer’s Speech

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On March 14, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the highest-ranking Jewish lawmaker in Congress and a stalwart supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor about Israel, Hamas, the Palestinians, the Israel-Hamas war and future relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The deeply layered and nuanced speech contained many compelling pronouncements from Schumer about his staunch support for Israel, the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, the evil of Hamas, the threat Hamas poses to the Palestinian people and the need to defeat Hamas.

Yet, the primary focus of media coverage from the speech was upon Schumer’s leveling strong criticism at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government and Schumer’s call for Israel to hold elections for a new government to deal with the threat of Hamas and the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas war once the fighting starts to wind down.

Schumer has long been a supporter of a two-state solution to address Israel’s differences with the Palestinians. And he argued passionately for that goal to be a central part of Israel’s post-war planning. Most American Jews agree with him. Most Israelis do not, at least at this time, while Israel is at war, 130 hostages are being held by Hamas and there is no credible Palestinian leadership with whom to negotiate.

Nonetheless, Schumer urged Palestinians and Israelis to reject “from the river to the sea” thinking — a one-state solution that will have Palestinians subjugating Israelis or Israelis subjugating Palestinians. Instead, he urged that “the U.S. government should demand that Israel conduct itself with a future two-state solution in mind.”

Schumer’s comments about Netanyahu were brutal. He declared that “Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.” And he lamented that “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.”

Fighting words, for sure. And Israel fired back. For example, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said, “Israel is a sovereign democracy. It is unhelpful, all the more so as Israel is at war against a genocidal terror organization Hamas, to comment on the domestic political scene of a democratic ally.” Some Israeli political rivals of Netanyahu also joined in Herzog’s sentiment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rebuked Schumer for his remarks, labeling the call for new Israeli elections “unprecedented.” According to McConnell, “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.”

And that’s the point. America would not tolerate leaders of Israel seeking to influence voters in the upcoming U.S. presidential election or Knesset speeches by Israeli government officials in which they attack the honesty, integrity, mental capacity or physical stamina of either of our likely lead candidates for president.

While we acknowledge Schumer’s historic support of Israel and respect his deep-felt vision for Israel’s future, we believe that only Israelis should determine when to hold elections and who will emerge victorious.

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