update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Schumer ‘wrestled’ with calling for Netanyahu’s resignation

“Maybe I should say Bibi should step down,” the Senate majority leader told the New York Times. “That is telling Israel what to do, and it’s in the middle of a war.”

Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Credit: Ron Adar/Shutterstock.
Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Credit: Ron Adar/Shutterstock.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “wrestled” with calling directly in his Senate floor speech on Thursday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, the Jewish senator told The New York Times.

Instead, Schumer said Israel should hold new elections to oust the governing coalition when the war against Hamas winds down.

In the Times interview that was published on Tuesday, Schumer said that in the two months he spent drafting the speech, he wanted to criticize Netanyahu personally though drew the line at calling for the Israeli prime minister’s immediate removal.

“I wrestled with myself—maybe I should say Bibi should step down,” Schumer said. “That is telling Israel what to do, and it’s in the middle of a war.”

Whenever the question of resignation came up, “I always said, ‘No,’” Schumer added.

Ultimately, Schumer labeled Netanyahu one of the “four obstacles to peace” between Israelis and Palestinians, along with “radical right-wing Israelis,” Hamas and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. He also called in the speech for new Israeli elections to preserve a path to a two-state solution.

Schumer said that he was spurred to speak out because he believes that Netanyahu has become “the fount of the problems” in Israel’s war against Hamas and that Netanyahu’s policies risk a break with the United States that could risk Israel’s future.

“Bibi could prevent any election until 2026,” he said. “I worry under his leadership, Israel would become such a pariah in the world and even in the United States because I look at the numbers, and they’re rapidly decreasing. I had to speak out before it erodes.”

Schumer told the Times that he went through 10 drafts of the speech, sharing the contents with only a tight circle of staffers and with his wife. 

He claims that he shared the speech with the Biden administration only the day before he delivered it, and then only to get feedback on whether it would undermine the negotiations to free hostages. The White House told him that it would not.

The bombshell speech has garnered harsh criticism from Republicans, many Israeli political figures, Jewish groups and even some Democrats.

On Wednesday, Schumer criticized Netanyahu for speaking with Senate Republicans after reports that he had rejected a similar briefing for Senate Democrats.

“When you make these issues partisan, you hurt the cause of Israel,” said Schumer. “I gave this speech out of a real love for Israel.”

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