US Senate leader calls for 'new election' in Israel; says Netanyahu 'major obstacle' to peace

AFP , Thursday 14 Mar 2024

The leader of the US Senate called Thursday for Israel to hold new elections and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a "major obstacle" to peace, in the most strident criticism yet by a senior American official of the Israeli PM's handling of the war on Gaza.

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, poses for a picture with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 15, 2017. AP


The remarks from Chuck Schumer, a staunch supporter of Israel and its war on Gaza, came amid increased pressure from President Joe Biden over the mounting toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza.

"As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice," said Schumer, the head of the chamber's Democratic majority, without suggesting a timeline for a vote.

"There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after October 7."

Schumer said Netanyahu was one of four "major obstacles" to a two-state solution and peace, alongside Hamas and its Palestinian supporters, radical right-wing Israelis and the Palestinian Authority's leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He accused the Israeli leader of surrounding himself with right-wing extremists and being "too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows."

"Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah," Schumer, an outspoken ally of the Israeli government who visited the country just days after a Hamas offensive in October, told colleagues on the Senate floor.

He warned that if Netanyahu's coalition continued to pursue "dangerous and inflammatory" policies after the war, the United States would look at playing "a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course."

Israel's war and siege on Gaza, now in its sixth month, has displaced most of the territory's population and pushed a quarter of the population to the brink of famine.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says Israel has killed at least 31,341 people and wounded nearly 75,000, many of them women and children.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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