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Friday, April 19, 2024

Schumer is right to express disappointment with Netanyahu

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants Israel to hold new elections, and makes no secret that he thinks and hopes when they do, Bibi Netanyahu will be turned out. So he conveyed in a Thursday speech on the Senate floor that surprised and rankled many fellow Democrats.

A senator expressing his beliefs does not amount to the U.S. government interfering in a foreign election, as some spuriously claim. Schumer may be the most powerful Democrat in the legislative branch, not to mention the most prominent Jew in American politics at the moment, but he doesn’t set executive branch policy. It’s President Biden who does. And though Biden has made his disappointment with Netanyahu clear enough, the White House distanced itself from Schumer’s remarks related to replacing Netanyahu.

Senators are free to back or to criticize Israel’s every move, to say that they want foreign aid to flow or to be interrupted. Though the practice is best avoided, even presidents are free to do that; what qualifies as interference is if and when the U.S. government itself actively participates in a free and democratic overseas election (unlike the sham happening in Russia) either openly or sub rosa, putting powerful American thumbs on the scales.

Schumer’s point is simply that he wants the Israeli people to have a chance to weigh in on their current leadership and choose another pathway if that’s the popular will as registered in a free and fair trip to the ballot box.

We agree.

Netanyahu has been right to hit back against Hamas, which orchestrated the horrific Oct. 7 pogrom of murder, rape and kidnapping.

But, as Israelis know well, his government — which purports to put security first — failed to protect the nation from an assault that they should’ve known was coming. As the war has ramped up, Netanyahu has shown insufficient care to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties, or for stemming a slow-motion humanitarian crisis. He’s hardened his opposition to a two-state solution, which remains the only sane long-term answer to the problems plaguing the region.

He’s shown fierce determination to dismantle Hamas which we appreciate, but a tragic lack of vision and discipline to lay out a credible plan for how to put Gaza’s pieces back together.

None of this touches on Netanyahu’s brazen attempts to disempower Israel’s independent judiciary or the corruption charges he’s up against in court, both of which have fueled powerful popular resistance on the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Schumer said, “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.”

Those who love Israel and want it to thrive long past this moment of crisis should second those emotions. The only serious question that remains is whether, by making it appear as though the party in power in the United States wants Netanyahu out, the majority leader has just made it more likely that he’ll remain in charge. The one thing that’s dogged the world longer than the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it seems, is the law of unintended consequences.

— The New York Daily News

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