Biden says Schumer’s controversial call for new Israeli elections was ‘a good speech’

Senate majority leader had said the Israeli government needed to make ‘significant course corrections’

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Friday 15 March 2024 19:19 GMT
Chuck Schumer says Netanyahu's government 'no longer fits the needs of Israel'

President Joe Biden on Friday praised Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s bombshell remarks calling for new elections in Israel, just a day after the New York Democrat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was an “obstacle” to peace in the region.

Mr Biden was asked about the Senate leader’s remarks during an Oval Office meeting alongside Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is making the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington.

In response, the president said Mr Schumer had reached out to a “senior staffer” at the White House ahead of his Thursday remarks from the Senate floor, but said he would not elaborate on what the majority leader had said.

“He made a good speech, and I think he expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans,” he said.

A short time later, Mr Varadkar raised the humanitarian situation in Gaza, telling Mr Biden:  “My view is that we need a ceasefire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in, to get the hostages out”.

“We need to talk about how we can make that happen and move towards a two state solution,” he added.

Mr Biden replied: “I agree.”

Mr Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish-American to ever serve in any US elected office, took to the Senate floor on Thursday to say he was speaking for a “silent majority” of American Jews who hold “nuanced views” on the months-long war between Israel and Hamas.

While conceding that Israel remains “surrounded by vicious enemies” and vowing to “never underestimate” either the “grave threats Israel faces — and has faced — for the entirety of its existence” or “the oppression that the Jewish people have endured for millennia,” the Senate leader said Israel must make “significant course corrections” to “achieve lasting peace, and ensure prosperity and security for both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people in the Middle East”.,

He reiterated the view that the “only just solution” is one that allows for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and criticised both Israelis who fail to acknowledge the harm that building more and more settlements in the West Bank does to the two-state process, as well as Palestinians who insist on “an unequivocal ‘right of return’”.

And he named four “major obstacles” to a two-state peace process — extremist right-wing Israelis, Hamas militants and Palestinians who tolerate them, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr Netanyahu.

John Kirby, the White House National Security Communications Adviser, told reporters on Thursday that the administration did get a heads up about Mr Schumer’s remarks, but stressed that the communications with the Senate leader were not “about approval, or disapproval or editing in any way”.

“We know Leader Schumer feels strongly about this ... we’re gonna stay focused on making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself while doing everything that they can to avoid civilian casualties and, of course, we’re still focused, laser-focused, on trying to get a temporary ceasefire in place so that we can get the hostages out and get more aid in,” he said.

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