Sen. Chuck Schumer warns Israel is becoming a "pariah" and calls for new elections

Washington DC - The leader of the Senate called Thursday for Israel to hold new elections in the most strident criticism yet by a senior American official of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the war in Gaza.

Senator Chuck Schumer called for new elections in Israel during a scathing address given on the Senate floor Thursday.
Senator Chuck Schumer called for new elections in Israel during a scathing address given on the Senate floor Thursday.  © JIM WATSON / AFP

The remarks from Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jewish American in history, came amid increased pressure from President Joe Biden amid warnings of a genocide in Gaza.

"As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice," said Schumer, the head of the chamber's Democratic majority, without suggesting a timeline for a vote.

"There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after October 7."

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Schumer said Netanyahu was one of four "major obstacles" to a two-state solution and peace, alongside Hamas and its Palestinian supporters, radical right-wing Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority's leader Mahmoud Abbas. He accused the Israeli leader of surrounding himself with right-wing extremists and being "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," Schumer, an outspoken ally of the Israeli government who visited the country just days after the attacks, told colleagues on the Senate floor.

He warned that if Netanyahu's coalition continued to pursue "dangerous and inflammatory" policies after the war, the United States would look at playing "a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course."

The conflict began on October 7 last year when Hamas militants attacked Israel, resulting in about 1,160 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

In response, Israel has carried out a relentless campaign of bombardment and ground operations in Gaza, killing at least 31,341 people, most of them civilians, according to the territory's health ministry.

Warnings of famine and genocide in Gaza grow

Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel has carried out a relentless assault on Gaza that has killed over 31,000, most of them civilians.
Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel has carried out a relentless assault on Gaza that has killed over 31,000, most of them civilians.  © Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP

The United Nations is warning of famine amid hampered efforts to get more aid into the war-devastated Gaza Strip, and desperate residents have stormed relief shipments.

Mediators failed to reach a truce between Israel and Hamas militants for the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which started on Monday, and Hamas authorities have since reported more than 40 airstrikes across Gaza.

Daily aid airdrops by multiple nations have been taking place but the air and sea missions are not seen as adequate, and the UN has reported difficulty in accessing Gaza's north with aid.

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"The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7. The world has changed radically since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past," 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 towards a two-state solution."

Schumer also called for the resignation of Abbas, who he said had evaded the democratic process and achieved few of his self-proclaimed goals, overseeing a corrupt Palestinian Authority that was inciting instability.

Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell described Schumer's call for new elections in Israel as "grotesque and hypocritical," given Democrats' concerns about foreign interference in US elections.

"The Jewish state of Israel deserves an ally that acts like one," he said.

Cover photo: Collage: Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP & Jim WATSON / AFP

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