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Why Schumer's rebuke of Netanyahu is an 'earthquake' in Israeli politics

Senate Majority Leader Schumer had the Israeli prime minister's back for many years, but the Gaza war and Netanyahu's hard-line government have changed the political calculus.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) departs from Senate chambers in the US Capitol Building after calling on Israel to hold new elections and criticizing Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, March 14, 2024.

TEL AVIV — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered a ringing public rebuke this week to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sealing the Biden administration and Democratic Party's break with the Israeli leader. 

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel,” Schumer said in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor Thursday, calling for Israel to schedule early elections while repeatedly underscoring his support for the country and its people. 

Schumer, the most senior Jewish elected official in the United States and a long-standing, staunch Israel supporter, is the third high-ranking Democrat to express this new policy approach of distinguishing between Netanyahu and his extremist allies versus the Israeli people.

“It’s important for us to distinguish or at least not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a March 8 CBS News interview. The following day, President Joe Biden said in an MSNBC interview that Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” and suggested that he might address the Israeli people directly, from the Knesset podium, going over Netanyahu’s head.

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