Why Senator Schumer has put Israel in danger – opinion

With his inappropriate call for Israelis to elect a new prime minister now, during a war, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has put Israel in danger.

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That’s because it’s not all about Gaza. A horrible conflict with Lebanon is looming on the horizon, and he has brought it closer.

The main problem with Schumer’s speech is not its content but how it’s perceived. In this post-fact world of attention spans like a gnat’s, perception is reality.

How many laypeople either heard or read Schumer’s entire speech? Anybody? Or do they leave it to us analysts, who make a practice of reading everything we can get our hands on—like that 2009 interview with a top Palestinian negotiator who disclosed Israel’s offer of a state, the one the Associated Press banned me from writing about—but I digress.

Israel’s military operates in the Gaza Strip during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, on November 27, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Schumer’s 6,000-word speech is well-balanced, expressing views that many, possibly most, Israelis could live with.

Besides calling for replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu through elections, he declares that extremists like cabinet ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir should not be in positions of leadership.

Schumer also advocates deposing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, not necessarily through elections. He criticizes Abbas for the Palestinian Authority’s encouragement of terrorism and failure to improve the lives of its people.

He blames Hamas, not Israel, for the current conflict and the humanitarian crisis it has caused, and he insists that Hamas and its supporters must not be a part of Palestinian leadership.

He concludes that the only sustainable, peaceful permanent arrangement is a two-state solution—a demilitarized Palestinian state next to Israel.

If an Israeli had written that, it would have received little notice because all those points are decidedly mainstream here.

The problem is that it came from the top US senator—a proud, pro-Israel Jew at that—and the reporting singled out only his call for elections to replace Netanyahu, who, Schumer says, has “lost his way” and puts his political survival above the welfare of the nation.

All his other points got lost, because in this era of anti-social media, information overload, and superficial headline-glancing—one point is what most people see, no more. Therefore, that’s what the politicians respond to.

So enemies of the US and Israel perceive Schumer’s speech as another crack in the foundation of one of the most durable alliances in modern history, one that has benefited both sides almost beyond measure.

Perception is reality. It’s not just theory; it has practical effects here. Israel is engaged in another smoldering war that you don’t hear much about because of all the attention to Gaza.

Since Oct. 7, when Hamas sent thousands of bloodthirsty terrorists across Israel’s border with Gaza to kill, maim, burn, and rape more than 1,000 Israelis and kidnap more than 200 others, Hezbollah has joined the battle from Lebanon.

Escalation in the north has only gotten worse

In the last five months, Hezbollah has fired more than 3,000 rockets across Israel’s northern border, forcing the evacuation of 96,000 Israelis from 28 northern villages. These Israelis have been living in hotels and guest houses and crashing with relatives for nearly half a year, as Hezbollah pounds their empty homes with rocket after rocket after rocket.

Israel’s military responds with airstrikes against Hezbollah bases and terrorists and the like, mostly in Lebanon but also in Syria—though there is no illusion that such pinpoint strikes can stop the rocket fire. Hezbollah is said to have more than 100,000 rockets, some of them longer-range guided missiles, aimed at all parts of Israel.Is there a nation in the world that would put up with this kind of destruction and threat for five months without an all-out response? Of course not. So what’s holding Israel back?

The main factors are the hope that Hezbollah will stop its attacks when the Gaza war is over, and the reluctance to trigger a full-scale war with Lebanon that would include massive bombardments of Israeli cities with powerful rockets.

Lurking in the back of Israelis’ minds is the prospect that a newly critical US might limit or even halt the supply of weapons and ammunition if it doesn’t like Israel’s behavior.

The link between Hezbollah and Hamas is their sponsor, Iran. Iran’s goal is, simply put, to kick the US out of the Middle East. Attacking Israel, seen as a US proxy, is one step in that direction. Arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels to target international shipping in the Red Sea is another.

That brings us to the danger of Schumer’s call to replace Israel’s leader. It’s perceived as a schism between the US and Israel, leaving Israel weaker than ever before. That makes it tempting for Iran to egg its Hezbollah proxies on toward a major war.

And what would be Israel’s response? In a just world, Israel would unleash its full arsenal to eliminate Hezbollah as a threat, even if that meant turning Lebanon into a pile of rubble like much of Gaza.

But this isn’t a just world, as the fact-free propaganda barrages against Israel over its counterattack in Gaza show so clearly. Such an Israeli response to Hezbollah’s terrorist rocket strikes would no doubt trigger another round of marches, protests, boycotts, and threats from all quarters—even the threat of the ultimate nightmare, cutting US military assistance to Israel.

That’s how Chuck Schumer has put Israel in danger—not by his obviously inappropriate and unacceptable meddling in Israel’s internal politics but by emboldening Iran and its henchmen on Israel’s borders to escalate their terrorism, step up their attacks, and provoke as big a war as possible.

Clearly, the Jewish senator from New York did not intend that. It doesn’t matter; in this TikTok world, only perception matters.

Mark Lavie has been covering the Middle East for major news outlets since 1972. His second book, ‘Why Are We Still Afraid?’, which follows his five-decade career and comes to a surprising conclusion, is available on Amazon.

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