Schumer’s Critique of Netanyahu Reveals a Growing Gap, Analysts Say


Senator Chuck Schumer’s harsh critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government revealed the widening gap between Israel and its most important ally, the United States, analysts said on Friday, but was unlikely to prompt Israel’s government to chart a new course.

Mr. Schumer — Democrat of New York, the majority leader and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States — repeatedly slammed Mr. Netanyahu in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday as one of the main stumbling blocks to Israeli-Palestinian peace. While not explicitly calling for Mr. Netanyahu’s ouster, Mr. Schumer said Israelis must soon be allowed the opportunity to select new leadership.

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat, called the speech a profound moment that reflected widespread American dissatisfaction with Israel’s direction among both its allies in Congress and in the American Jewish community.

“For a Jewish senator from New York, the majority leader, a friend of Netanyahu who’s the most centrist possible Democrat and even leans hawkish on Israel, to voice criticism like this?” said Mr. Pinkas, adding, “If you’ve lost Chuck Schumer, you’ve lost America.”

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s opposition, was one of the few Israeli leaders to welcome Mr. Schumer’s remarks, calling his speech “proof that Netanyahu is losing Israel’s biggest supporters in the United States one by one.”

In a statement, Mr. Lapid said that “Netanyahu is causing heavy damage to the national effort to win the war and preserve Israel’s security.”

But that was a minority viewpoint. More typical was the reaction of Benny Gantz, a center-right critic of Mr. Netanyahu who joined him in an emergency wartime government. Mr. Schumer, he said on social media on Thursday, had “erred in his remark.” Any “external intervention is not correct and not welcome,” he added.

Widely seen as a serious contender for prime minister in the next elections, Mr. Gantz regularly outpolls Mr. Netanyahu in opinion surveys. But “given everything going on in Gaza, even Israeli political leaders who oppose Netanyahu are reluctant to turn this into a political moment,” said Michael Koplow, an analyst at the Israel Policy Forum think tank.

Mr. Schumer has long been comfortably ensconced in the more conservative wing of Washington’s pro-Israel establishment. In 2015, he sharply criticized the Iran nuclear deal, which was backed by then-President Barack Obama and fiercely opposed by Mr. Netanyahu.

“The distance that Schumer traveled to give that speech is probably farther than that of any other Democratic politician, given his longstanding support for Israel,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department diplomat.



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