Netanyahu says Schumer speech calling for Israel election was inappropriate

By Thomson Reuters Mar 17, 2024 | 8:54 AM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s speech in which he urged new elections in Israel was “totally inappropriate.”

In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer, a longtime supporter of Israel and the highest-ranking Jewish U.S. elected official, called for new elections in Israel and said Netanyahu was an obstacle to peace.

“I think what he said is totally inappropriate. It’s inappropriate to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there,” Netanyahu said in the CNN interview.

The speech reflected growing frustration in Washington with Netanyahu, his management of the war with Hamas, failure to do more to protect Palestinian civilians and perceived obstruction of aid deliveries in Gaza. International criticism of U.S. support for Israel has mounted due to the death toll and starvation crisis in the coastal enclave.

Schumer said it would be a “grave mistake” for Israel to reject a two-state solution and urged negotiators in the Israel-Gaza conflict to do everything possible to secure a ceasefire, free hostages and get aid into Gaza.

President Joe Biden said on Friday that Schumer’s comments echoed the concerns of many Americans, describing the remarks as a “good speech.”

Schumer also criticized Palestinians who support Islamist group Hamas, and said Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas should also step aside.

Schumer also raised the possibility of Washington using its leverage if Israel does not change course. Still, he did not go as far as suggesting a step some Democrats advocate: introducing legislation to make easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza a condition for the U.S. provision of weapons to Israel.

Israel’s military assault on Gaza has displaced nearly its entire 2.3 million population, caused a starvation crisis, flattened most of the enclave, killed over 31,000, according to Hamas health officials, and led to accusations of genocide being probed in the World Court.

Israel denies the genocide charges and says it is acting in self defense after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel from Hamas that killed 1,200 and took scores of hostages.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)