Schumer defends call for Israel to replace Netanyahu in meet with US Jewish leaders

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, March 12, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, March 12, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer convened a meeting earlier today with executives from major American Jewish organizations to defend the much-talked-about speech he gave last week calling for early elections in Israel to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the community leaders on the call tells The Times of Israel

“There was a fundamental question of whether he would backpedal or defend himself, and he very clearly defended himself,” says the executive on the call Schumer held with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Schumer stressed that most of his 45-minute speech focused on criticizing Hamas and lamented that the reporting has focused almost solely on his call for early elections, the executive says, speaking on condition of anonymity to share details from the private meeting.

Still, the Senate majority leader reaffirmed his belief that Netanyahu is a danger to Israel, particularly for empowering far-right leaders like Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, the executive at the virtual meeting recalls.

Schumer clarified that he wasn’t telling Israelis who to vote for and that he was only pushing for elections when the war in Gaza begins winding down.

He stressed what he views as his “hawkish” pro-Israel bonafides, recalling how he was one of four Democrats in the Senate to vote against the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by then-US president Barack Obama in 2015, the executive says.

Schumer recognized that some in the Jewish community didn’t like his speech, but he maintained that he had an obligation to give it given his position. He recognized that domestic politics were a factor, but insisted that wasn’t the driving influence behind his speech.

In that speech, the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress in US history said Netanyahu was one of four obstacles to peace along with Hamas, the Israeli far-right and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While fielding questions from members of the Conference, Schumer pushed back on the notion that he was equating Netanyahu with Hamas.

Most Popular