Netanyahu Allies Reject Schumer’s Criticism of Israeli Leader


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies swiftly criticized a pointed speech by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, calling the Israeli leader an obstacle to peace, with the Israeli ambassador to the United States characterizing such claims as “counterproductive.”

Mr. Schumer’s comments, which included a call for new leadership, amounted to some of the strongest yet by an elected American official. They demonstrated the rising tensions between the U.S. government and Israel, as many Democrats grow increasingly angry over the humanitarian crisis unleashed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli ambassador, Michael Herzog, called the comments “unhelpful” in a post on social media and said they were “counterproductive to our common goals.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, said, “Israel is not a banana republic, but a proud independent democracy that elected Prime Minister Netanyahu” and that it was “expected that Senator Schumer respects Israel’s government and does not undermine it.”

The Israeli leader has struck a defiant tone against international criticism of the way his country has conducted its war to oust Hamas.

President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have sparred this month, with Mr. Biden asserting that the Israeli leader was “hurting Israel” more than he was helping. This week, a group of Democratic senators urged Mr. Biden to stop providing offensive weapons to Israel for the war against Hamas until it lifted restrictions on U.S.-backed humanitarian aid going into Gaza.

Mr. Biden has become more forceful in recent days about the plight of civilians in Gaza, where the United Nations and aid agencies have warned of looming famine, and has urged Mr. Netanyahu not to proceed with his stated plans to launch a major ground offensive in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza without a plan to protect the masses of people sheltering there.

More than a million Gazans have sought refuge in the city, many of whom were displaced by fighting or Israeli military orders to move into so-called safe zones.

While visiting soldiers in northern Israel on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the plans to move into Rafah, which Israel says is the last major stronghold of Hamas.

“There is international pressure to prevent us from entering Rafah and completing the work,” he said. “As prime minister of Israel, I reject this pressure.”

Mr. Netanyahu is also grappling with politics at home. A new American intelligence assessment this week raised doubts about his ability to stay in power, with distrust rising among the Israeli public and Israel likely to struggle to eradicate Hamas. And Israel’s wartime emergency government is showing strains: On Tuesday, the hawkish New Hope party announced that it would leave the fragile two-party alliance led by Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet, in frustration that Rafah had not already been invaded.

The Israeli opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said on Thursday that Mr. Schumer’s speech showed that Netanyahu was “losing Israel’s greatest supporters in the U.S.” Mr. Lapid has said that he would join an Israeli government led by the right as long as it excluded Mr. Netanyahu and some of his hard-line partners.

“Netanyahu is causing great damage to the national effort to win the war and safeguard Israel’s security,” Mr. Lapid said.



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