‘He made a good speech’

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday praised the speech delivered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a day earlier in which he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and called for new elections in Israel.

“He made a good speech and I think he expressed a serious concern shared not only by him but by many Americans,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office when asked what he thought about Schumer’s remarks.

Biden, who said that Schumer contacted his staff in advance of making the speech Thursday, said he wouldn’t elaborate further on the comments.

The speech by Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the U.S. ever, was the most significant criticism by a U.S. leader against Israel since its war with Hamas began after Oct. 7.

“Five months into this conflict, it is clear that Israelis need to take stock of the situation and ask, must we change course?” Schumer said. “At this critical juncture, I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel.”

Schumer said that Netanyahu has allowed “his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel” and expressed that the prime minister’s recent indications that he’s not interested in the formation of an independent Palestinian state don’t align with U.S. policy.

During a White House press briefing later on Friday, national security spokesman John Kirby sidestepped a question about whether Biden also wants to see new elections in Israel and for Netanyahu to no longer remain in power.

“That’s going to be up for the Israeli people to decide,” Kirby said.

Biden has faced ongoing calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to exert more pressure on the Israeli government to make greater efforts to curb Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid into the strip. The president has recently authorized U.S. airdrops of aid into Gaza as well as the creation of a temporary pier that could facilitate moving in more assistance.

While some Democrats praised Schumer’s speech Thursday, it also drew countering viewpoints from other members of his party, as well as criticism from Republican lawmakers.

“Although I have disagreements with Israel’s government, I respect the Israelis’ right to decide for themselves when to call elections and whom to choose as their leaders,” Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said in a statement. “I pray that when the time comes, Israelis of all faiths and backgrounds will come together to elect leaders who will strengthen democracy and build on the unbreakable bonds between our two nations, just as I pray we Americans will do in November.”

Former Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., now president of the American Jewish Committee, wrote in a statement that while the organization appreciates Schumer’s defense of Israel, “We do not believe it is appropriate for U.S. officials to try to dictate the electoral future of any ally.”

Several Israeli officials also rejected Schumer’s call for new elections.

Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz, for example, posted on X that Schumer “is a friend of Israel, and though he erred in his remarks, plays an important role in assisting the State of Israel, including during these difficult times.”

“Israel is a robust democracy, and only its citizens will decide its future and leadership. Any external interference on the matter is counter-productive and unacceptable,” he wrote.

First appeared on www.nbcnews.com

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