WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on Israel to hold new elections.

Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the U.S., strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 40-minute speech Thursday morning on the Senate floor. He said the prime minister has put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been 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 said.

The high-level warning comes as an increasing number of Democrats have pushed back against Israel and as President Joe Biden has stepped up public pressure on Netanyahu’s government, warning that he needs to pay more attention to the civilian death toll in Gaza amid the Israeli bombardment. The U.S. this month began airdrops of badly needed humanitarian aid and announced it would establish a temporary pier to get more assistance into Gaza via sea.

Schumer has so far positioned himself as a strong ally of the Israeli government, visiting the country just days after the brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and giving a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in December decrying ”brazen and widespread antisemitism the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations in this country, if ever.”

But he said on the Senate floor Thursday that the ”Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

Schumer says Netanyahu, who has long opposed Palestinian statehood, is one of several obstacles in the way of the two-state solution pushed by the United States. Netanyahu “has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel,” Schumer said.

Schumer is also blaming right-wing Israelis, Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Until they are all removed from the equation, he says, “there will never be peace in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank.”

Netanyahu has long had a more cozy relationship with Republicans in the United States, most notably speaking at a joint session of Congress in 2015 at the invitation of GOP lawmakers to try to torpedo former President Barack Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. The move infuriated Obama administration officials, who saw it as an insufferable end run around Obama’s presidential authority and unacceptably deep interference in U.S. politics and foreign policy.

Just this week, Netanyahu was invited to speak to Republican senators at a party retreat. But Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog took his place due to last minute scheduling issues, according to a person familiar with the closed-door meeting.

It is unclear how Schumer’s unusually direct call will be received in Israel, where the next parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2026. Many Israelis hold Netanyahu responsible for failing to stop the Oct. 7 cross-border raid by Hamas, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and his popularity appears to have taken a hit as a result.

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