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Schumer’s Netanyahu Derangement Syndrome

Chuck Schumer is the latest victim of an old political malady 

Photo: AP Images

IF Senator Chuck Schumer, a Jewish Democrat from New York, made aliyah and wished to remain in politics, he could fit in seamlessly as second in command to Yair Lapid at Yesh Atid. (Just realized that Lapid rhymes with Atid.)

If Schumer’s ego won’t allow him to play second fiddle, he could form a new party, born in SIN — an acronym for “Save Israel from Netanyahu.”

The above is only a Purim spiel, but Schumer, the Senate majority leader, with 25 years of seniority in the Senate, tarnished his longstanding pro-Israel reputation forever in the eyes of a majority of Israelis and a goodly number of Americans by taking to the Senate floor to call for new elections in Israel.

According to Schumer, Binyamin Netanyahu has “lost his way,” and his “coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel.” With unprecedented arrogance, he threatened that if Netanyahu’s coalition remains in power, “and continues to pursue dangerous and inflammatory policies,” then “the United States will have no choice but to play a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course.”

In plain English, Schumer, who cleared his speech with the Biden administration in advance, declared that if Israel doesn’t install a new government that pursues Schumer’s overriding interest — the re-election of the Biden-Harris ticket — America will curtail its military and political support for Israel.

Schumer’s Senate floor speech was a premeditated breach of the protocol of non-interference in another democratic country’s internal politics. It was especially hurtful aimed at a strategic ally like Israel, embroiled in a multi-front war it didn’t ask for. Aside from Lapid, who cited Schumer’s speech as proof that Netanyahu was shedding allies right and left, even Benny Gantz, who is waiting in the wings for a new election, issued a statement saying Schumer blundered, and reminded him that Israel is a democracy that makes its own choices.

Schumer did aim for balance in calling for Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to step down “to support a gradual succession plan for responsible Palestinian leaders to take his place.”

That’s presuming Abbas, who is serving the 19th year of the four-year term he won in 2005, will exit gracefully. Schumer also distastefully drew moral equivalence to “Hamas, and the Palestinians who support and tolerate their evil ways” with “radical right-wing Israelis in government and society,” singling out Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, referring to them as the “bigots” in Bibi’s coalition who “reject the idea of a Palestinian state.”

Chuck, I’ve got news for you. You don’t have to be a bigot or a right-wing radical to reject a Palestinian state. You just need to keep your eyes and ears wide open — an imposing challenge for people who live in a dream world. There is a multitude of evidence from recent history that a Palestinian state would pose an existential danger to the Jews of Israel.

And Israel is not alone. The global outbreak of Islamic-sponsored anti-Semitism has every Jew in the world feeling queasy.


Schumer’s Flip-Flop

Schumer’s vocal opposition to Netanyahu is also a major turnaround. When Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress in 2015 to try to sway elected officials to oppose the Obama-Biden Iran nuclear deal, Schumer expressed his displeasure with Bibi’s approach in a private conversation. Even then, Schumer attended Netanyahu’s address and was one of four Senate Democrats who bucked Obama by voting against the deal. However, when it became politically expedient, Schumer flip-flopped and criticized Trump for exiting the deal in 2018 after he took office.

It was Fox News that coined the term “Trump derangement syndrome” to describe people who opposed Trump no matter what he said or did. That disorder is contagious and has infected Netanyahu critics, too.

Bibi has served more than 15 years in nonconsecutive terms as Israel’s prime minister. His longevity places him in a league with other iconic modern-day leaders of Western democracies, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Tony Blair, and Canada’s Stephen Harper, but the longer a politician serves in high office, the more time he has to make political enemies.

Why does Netanyahu arouse such intense opposition?

Some of it is rational and some is not.

No politician is above criticism or beyond reproach. His moniker as Mr. Security fizzled after Hamas’s October 7 attack and the faulty conceptions that left security forces flat-footed. Chances are growing that the Likud will replace Netanyahu before the next election, whenever primaries are held, or that party members fed up with the Likud will defect to other parties.

But that’s a decision that Israel’s registered voters will make. It’s not up to Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, or the rest of the world’s cheerleaders for a two-state solution that could end up in the dissolution of one of them.


Rejection of Terms

One manifestation of “Netanyahu derangement syndrome” is Schumer’s buy-in to the Israeli leftist narrative that Bibi prioritizes his political survival over Israel’s best interests. Schumer cited Netanyahu’s political pact with Smotrich and Ben Gvir as evidence. Schumer conveniently ignores the fact or forgets that Netanyahu would have preferred a coalition with centrist parties led by Benny Gantz, Gideon Saar, and Avigdor Lieberman, but they effectively boycotted him, both before and after the election.

Schumer disregards the results of Israel’s last election in November 2022. Turnout exceeded 70%, and 516,146 people — to be precise — cast ballots for Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s Religious Zionism party. That’s almost 11 percent of the popular vote, which translated into 14 Knesset seats, making them Israel’s third largest party behind the Likud and Yesh Atid.

It’s not as if Israelis would have issues complying with Schumer’s pleas for elections. We held five in three and a half years between April 2019 and November 2022. Each time, some 30 to 40 parties fielded slates. No Israeli is shy about expressing political opinions.

Perhaps Schumer is encouraged by the polls that show Benny Gantz leading the pack if elections were held today, which they won’t be.

Some polls are also showing Religious Zionists, mainly Smotrich’s faction, have lost support, but accurate predictions are impossible to make considering the major convulsions and realignments that are lurking in the political landscape.

The overwhelming majority of Religious Zionists would reject being labeled as “bigots” or even members of the “radical right.” Who are they? Predominantly Israeli-born-and-bred Orthodox Jews from a broad cross-section of the dati-leumi community that includes professionals with advanced degrees, small-business owners, farmers, soldiers, and Torah scholars. Just like the chareidim, they belong to a rapidly growing demographic group in a country that has turned more religious and more right-wing since the October 7 calamities.

That being the case, that next election that Schumer clamored for on the Senate floor may render him more despondent than he is now.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1004)

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