Et tu Schumer? Our ‘shomer’ attacks Netanyahu


“Beware the ides of March,” warns the Soothsayer in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Caesar dismisses the warning, ignorant of the fact that his enemies are plotting against him. His dismissal is a mortal error, as he is assassinated on that prophesied day.

Caesar initially resists his attackers, but ultimately succumbs to them when he realizes that the attack is coming not just from his known enemies, but at the hand of the person he thought he could trust the most, Brutus. It is a seminal example of how political machinations can turn the loyalty of a friend.

Israel is in the midst of not only a military battle against a genocidal enemy, Hamas, as well as a brewing border war in the north with Hezbollah, but legal, political and public relations battles, on numerous fronts. It has been dragged into the dock at the Hague and maligned in the press.

For trying to move civilians out of harm’s way by getting them to evacuate northern Gaza and asking that other countries take in Gazan refugees, it has been accused of “ethnic cleansing,” and when it unintentionally kills civilians in the pursuit of Hamas terrorists, weapons and command and control structure, which is deliberately enmeshed among civilians, it is accused of “genocide.” Damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t.

And so it was both baffling and galling when Senator Charles Schumer, a person who has prided himself on being a “shomer” of Israel, chose this time to directly attack Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

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There has long been a well-known desire among Democratic politicians to see Netanyahu out of office, for good. Many in Israel’s electoral body politic feel the same way, and it is likely that, whenever the next election comes, Netanyahu will be voted out. Many disagree with his strategies and hold him directly responsible for the Simchat Torah Massacre of Oct. 7. The buck stops on his desk, after all.

But Senator Schumer’s attack on Netanyahu, from the floor of the Senate, coming from the highest-ranking Jew in American politics, is disgraceful.

Even assuming arguendo that Schumer believes he has Israel’s best interests at heart, such a public, high-profile call for the removal of Israel’s leader, in a time of war — and including him among the “obstacles to peace” in the same sentence as Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas — when Israel is being attacked from all sides, is inexcusable and unprecedented. It gives succor to Israel’s true enemies in American politics (the infamous “Squad,” for example). After all, if Senator Schumer feels it is acceptable for American politicians to publicly lump the Israeli Prime Minister in with terrorists and their leaders, and openly call for his removal from office, what’s to stop the true Israel haters from ramping up their attacks?

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One would be hard-pressed to recall any similar public calls from a ranking American politician for the removal of the democratically elected leader of a long-time US ally.

I am sure that many in the Democratic establishment were unhappy with Boris Johnson when he was prime minister of the UK. American leaders were often not enthralled, to put it mildly, with Charles DeGaulle when he led France (particularly his opposition to the United States taking a leadership role in NATO). But it would have been unthinkable for a ranking American politician to publicly call for their removal from office — let alone from the floor of the Senate — the way Senator Schumer did with regard to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

It is a slap in the face of our ally and, frankly, an insult to Israeli democracy.

Israelis are a sophisticated group. They know how to go to the polls (often, lately) and decide who “fits the needs of Israel.” Despite the unpopularity of the prime minister, the Israeli public was understandably shocked by the senator’s statement.

Schumer’s incantation of an urgent need for a “two state solution,” and his chastising of Netanyahu for his opposition to one, was also particularly tone-deaf. In the wake of Oct. 7 and in the course of this war, across most of the Israeli political spectrum and its populace, there is virtually no stomach for consideration of a Palestinian state right now, and many Israelis rightly see such talk as a reward for the brutality that began this war.

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Moreover, Schumer’s attack on Netanyahu smacks of gross hypocrisy. The United States is vociferously opposed to election interference when it is directed at the United States, and justly so.

We had a multi-year, multi-million-dollar investigation of alleged Russian interference when President Trump was elected (a process that finally went off with all the fury of a wet firecracker). When Mitt Romney was running against President Obama, Democrats bristled at what they considered Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “meddling” by seeming to endorse Romney. In fact, he never did, and stated publicly, repeatedly, that he did not want to weigh in on the American election.

When President Trump said to Netanyahu, during a live call, that “Sleepy Joe” (Biden) would not have accomplished for Israel what Trump had, Netanyahu deflected, saying that Israel was grateful for US support regardless of where it came from.

But the Democrats have not been as considerate in reverse.

President Obama, during a trip to Israel, told Israelis, during an election run-up, that Netanyahu was leading the country in the wrong direction (effectively encouraging Israelis to vote against him). US government funds went to the V15 group, which was working to unseat Netanyahu. And President Obama’s election team subsequently worked for the Israeli opposition against Netanyahu.

Kamala Harris only recently met with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chief political rival, Benny Gantz (albeit Gantz is part of Israel’s security cabinet). Indeed, even Gantz, who, polls indicate, would handily defeat Netanyahu if an election were held now, said that Schumer was mistaken in giving his speech and that any intervention in Israeli politics was “unacceptable.”

As Michael Oren wrote following Senator Schumer’s remarks, Israel is America’s ally, not its vassal.

When Israel, alone among the almost 200 countries in the world, has its very existence threatened and questioned, and its people are held captive and attacked, we need to ask the self-proclaimed “shomer,” “Et tu Schumer?”

Howard Bressler is a resident of West Hempstead. An attorney, he is author of “Wrong Conclusion, No Resolution: United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334’s Erroneous Conclusions on the Legality of Israeli Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem” and “The Layman’s Guide to Surviving Cancer: From Diagnosis Through Treatment and Beyond” (Langdon Street, 2014).