Netanyahu Assails Schumer, Dramatizing Partisan Split Over Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel assailed Senator Chuck Schumer on Wednesday in a closed-door speech to Senate Republicans, days after the Democratic majority leader branded him an impediment to peace in the Middle East and called for a new election to replace him after the war winds down.

Mr. Netanyahu’s virtual appearance at a weekly gathering of Republican senators — and a refusal by Mr. Schumer to allow him to make a similar address to Senate Democrats — dramatized the growing partisan split on Capitol Hill and in American politics over Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership and Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

“Senator Schumer made it clear that he does not think these discussions should happen in a partisan manner,” said Alex Nguyen, a spokesman, explaining why the senator had declined a request by Israeli officials to have the prime minister address Democrats at their weekly closed-door lunch as well. “That’s not helpful to Israel.”

Inside the meeting with Republicans, Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Schumer’s speech last week on the Senate floor “wholly inappropriate and outrageous,” according to Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who attended. And many Republican senators spoke up to say they agreed with him.

“He was not happy,” Mr. Hawley said of the prime minister. “He made that very clear.”

In an explosive speech last week, Mr. Schumer listed Mr. Netanyahu alongside Hamas as one of the major impediments to peace, and tried to lay out the case that Americans can love and support Israel and still be deeply critical of Mr. Netanyahu and his far-right government.

President Biden called it a “good speech” and some Democrats applauded Mr. Schumer for speaking out at a moment when Israel’s offensive against Hamas has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths in Gaza, including civilians. But conservative Jewish groups and Republicans were stunned and dismayed, and accused Mr. Schumer of crossing a dangerous line.

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