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‘Totally inappropriate’: Netanyahu condemns Schumer for meddling

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday gave a sharp response to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for a new government and “course corrections” by Israel.

“I think what he said is totally inappropriate,” Netanyahu said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s inappropriate to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there. That’s something the Israeli public does on its own.”

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the U.S., has long been a top advocate for Israel in Congress — making his floor remarks seeking new elections especially head-turning. “The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after Oct. 7,” Schumer said Thursday. “The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

President Joe Biden called Schumer’s remarks “a good speech.” Netanyahu responded to Biden’s reaction by claiming that the majority of Israelis support Netanyahu’s plan to “go into Rafah” and “destroy the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions” — though he stopped short of directly addressing the president’s comment.

Netanyahu, who went to high school in Pennsylvania and college in Massachusetts, compared the idea of an American calling for new leadership in Israel during wartime to Israelis calling for President George W. Bush to step down during the wars that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. “You don’t do that,” he said.

Last week, Netanyahu authorized plans for a Rafah offensive, days after Biden said that an Israeli invasion in Rafah would be a “red line” — though Biden quickly clarified that he would not “cut off all weapons” to Israel. Senior U.S. officials have told their Israeli counterparts the Biden administration would support Israel going after high-value Hamas targets in and underneath Rafah — as long as Israel avoids a large-scale invasion.

Schumer’s speech won praise from much of the Democratic caucus, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said on “State of the Union” that Netanyahu’s presentation “proved the necessity of Chuck Schumer’s speech.”

“Chuck Schumer’s speech was an act of courage, an act of love for Israel,” Pelosi said. “And I wish the Prime Minister would read the whole speech because he speaks with great vehemence about the need to defeat Hamas.”

Cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas were expected to resume in Qatar as soon as Sunday. Last month, Gaza’s death toll surpassed 30,000 in the Israeli invasion that followed Hamas’ incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. More than 100 Israelis continue to be held hostage by Hamas.

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