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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calls for new election in Israel amid increasing criticism of Netanyahu

Washington — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., on Thursday for the first time called for the Israeli government to hold an election, calling it the "only way" to determine Israel's path forward after its war with Hamas

"I believe 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," Schumer said. "There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after Oct. 7. In my opinion, that is best accomplished by holding an election."

Schumer's 40-minute remarks, delivered from the Senate floor, come as frustrations with Israel's approach to its war with Hamas have reached a boiling point among U.S. leaders amid concerns over a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The New York Democrat acknowledged that the U.S. cannot dictate the outcome of an election, but he said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current coalition remains in power after the war "and continues to pursue dangerous and inflammatory policies," the U.S. will have "no choice but to play a more active role in shaping Israeli policy."

Schumer, who has been a staunch supporter of Israel, called Netanyahu a "major obstacle to peace," saying he has "all too frequently bowed to the demands of extremists." He said Netanyahu has "lost his way by allowing his political survival to take the precedence over the best interests of Israel."

Watch: Schumer says Netanyahu "has lost his way," calls for election in Israel 10:43

"He has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows," Schumer said. "Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah."

The remarks come amid protests in Israel in recent weeks, as demonstrators have gathered to call for a new election. The next parliamentary elections in Israel are expected in 2026.

The New York Democrat also called for a two-state solution in Israel and Gaza, saying it's "the only real and sustainable solution to this decades old conflict," though he noted that the solution would require a demilitarized Palestinian state without Hamas having any role.

The Biden administration has likewise advocated for a two-state solution, which would create an independent state for Palestinians alongside Israel. At present, Gaza is a Palestinian enclave within Israel. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media during a weekly press conference in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., March 12, 2024.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media during a weekly press conference in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., March 12, 2024. Aaron Schwartz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Schumer called Netanyahu's rejection of a two-state solution in recent weeks "a grave mistake," saying that in order to achieve lasting peace, "Israel must make some significant course corrections."

"Palestinian civilians do not deserve to suffer for the sins of Hamas. and Israel has a moral obligation to do better," he said. "The United States has an obligation to do better."

Pushback against the comments was swift on Thursday. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said in a social media post that did not mention Schumer directly that commenting on the "domestic political scene of a democratic ally" is "unhelpful." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to respond on the Senate floor after Schumer's remarks, saying "the Jewish state of Israel deserves an ally that acts like one."

"It is grotesque and hypocritical for Americans who hyperventilate about foreign interference in our own democracy to call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of Israel," McConnell said. "This is unprecedented."

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