Schumer speech on Israel slammed by Republicans, experts as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘ridiculous’

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In what’s been called a “hypocritical,” “unprecedented,” “ridiculous” and “shameful” move by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, GOP political powerhouses are rallying against the New York senator’s suggestion Israel hold new elections and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

It comes at a time of growing U.S. pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza and as the Biden administration is preparing to build a temporary floating dock along the Gaza shoreline to allow for large-scale delivery of food and humanitarian aid to Gazans. 

The Israeli-Hamas conflict has become an increasingly polarizing issue for many Americans, making it a flash point during an already hotly contested upcoming race for the presidency. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a press conference.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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During his speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Schumer implored Israel to hold new elections and warned it of becoming a “pariah” if Netanyahu remained in power. He claimed Netanyahu had “lost his way by allowing his political survival to take the precedence over the best interests of Israel.”

His comments sparked bitter reactions from Republican leaders in the House and Senate, many of whom criticized his apparent lack of understanding or appreciation of Israel’s role as the closest and friendliest ally to the U.S. in the Middle East. 

“Ridiculous. An absolute dereliction of duty. Undermining the leadership of an ally in the middle of a war and interfering in elections is downright dangerous,” Sen. Tim Scott, R–S.C., wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

“Chuck Schumer should be ashamed for turning his back on our greatest ally in the Middle East,” wrote Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican running to become the Senate GOP Conference chair. 

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington March 6, 2024.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“While he gives lip service to Israel, his statements today show he will follow in lockstep with terrorist sympathizers while American lives are on the line.”

“The primary ‘obstacles to peace’ in Israel’s region are genocidal terrorists and corrupt PA (Palestinian Authority) leaders who repeatedly reject peace deals,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote on X. “Foreign observers who cannot keep this straight ought to refrain from interfering in the democracy of a sovereign ally.”

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national security think tank based in Washington, D.C., called Schumer’s suggestion “unprecedented.” 

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“Somehow, Chuck Schumer knows the politics of Israel better than the people who live in Israel – that’s really where you’ve jumped the shark,” Goldberg said. “And if, for some reason, we as Americans, on both sides of the aisle, accept this as a new form of behavior to do this to other allies – this will just be the starting point. And you will start seeing the White House trying to insert itself and to put its muscle on scales to meddle in elections in other democracies. 

“And now you’re on a slippery slope, where you really have to question our own democratic values when we do that.” 

Goldberg served on the National Security Council under former President Trump.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz (not pictured) at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS)

Schumer, who is Jewish, is among the top recipients of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) campaign cash – upward of $1.7 million, according to The Jerusalem Post. According to Opensecrets.com, he is seventh on the list of pro-Israel recipients in the Senate from 1994 to the present, below President Biden; Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; former Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; former Sen. Joe Leiberman, D-Conn.; and McConnell.

In a post on X, AIPAC wrote, “Israel is an independent democracy that decides for itself when elections are held and chooses its own leaders. America must continue to stand with our ally Israel and ensure it has the time and resources it needs to win this war. Hamas bears sole responsibility for this conflict. The hope for a brighter future for the Middle East begins with Israel’s decisive defeat of Hamas.”

Schumer’s remarks have largely been welcomed by congressional Democrats, many of whom have called for a cease-fire in Gaza as the conflict continues to escalate. 

Joel Rubin, a Democratic strategist and former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama adminstration, said Schumer has the “single most pro-Israel voting and legislative record of any member of Congress in the history of the United States.” He defended Schumer by arguing the speech came from an Israeli perspective and one that would facilitate peace in the long term.

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“Schumer said quite bluntly, ‘Look, I’ve known [Netanyahu] for decades. And the way that Netanyahu’s policy is advancing … it is his extreme kowtowing to the most dangerous voices in Israeli politics,'” Rubin said.

“Schumer believes that there are a lot of culprits to blame … and he named them … extremist thinkers who want to essentially kick out all the Palestinians from Gaza. And he said that that is unhealthy for the long-term safety and security of Israel – and by extension for the American-Israeli relationship.”

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