Top US Democrat Schumer calls for new elections in Israel

Top Us Democrat Schumer Calls For New Elections In Israel
US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, © Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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By Mary Clare Jalonick and Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called on Israel to hold new elections, saying he believes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and is an obstacle to peace in the region amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Mr Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the US, strongly criticised Mr Netanyahu in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor.


Mr Schumer said the prime minister had put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows”.



“Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah,” Mr Schumer said.

The high-level warning comes as an increasing number of Democrats have pushed back against Israel and as US president Joe Biden has stepped up public pressure on Mr Netanyahu’s government, warning that he needs to pay more attention to the civilian death toll in Gaza.

This month, the US began airdrops of badly needed humanitarian aid and announced it would establish a temporary pier to get more assistance into Gaza by sea.

Mr Schumer has so far positioned himself as a strong ally of the Israeli government, visiting the country days after the October 7 attack by Hamas and giving a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in December decrying “brazen and widespread antisemitism the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations in this country, if ever”.


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Many Israelis hold Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for failing to stop the October 7 cross-border raid by Hamas (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/AP)

But he said on the Senate floor on Thursday that the “Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past”.

Mr Schumer said Mr Netanyahu, who has long opposed Palestinian statehood, was one of several obstacles in the way of the two-state solution pushed by the United States. He was also blaming right-wing Israelis, Hamas and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.


Until they were all removed from the equation, he said, “there will never be peace in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank”.

Mr Schumer said the United States could not dictate the outcome of an election in Israel, but “a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government”.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip
US president Joe Biden has warned Mr Netanyahu that he needs to pay more attention to the civilian death toll in Gaza (Ohad Zwigenberg/AP)


At the White House, national security spokesman John Kirby declined to weigh in on Mr Schumer’s call for new elections, saying the White House is most focused on getting a temporary ceasefire in place.

“We know Leader Schumer feels strongly about this and we’ll certainly let him speak to it and to his comments,” Mr Kirby said.

“We’re going to stay focused on making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself while doing everything that they can to avoid civilian casualties.”

It is unclear how Mr Schumer’s unusually direct call will be received in Israel. The next parliamentary elections are expected in 2026 but could be held before then.

Many Israelis hold Mr Netanyahu responsible for failing to stop the October 7 cross-border raid by Hamas, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and his popularity appears to have taken a hit as a result.

US priorities in the region have increasingly been hampered by Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet, which is dominated by ultranationalists. The far-right cabinet members share Mr Netanyahu’s opposition to Palestinian statehood and other aims that successive US administrations have seen as essential to resolving Palestinian-Israeli conflicts long-term.

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