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Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) (L) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu on Schumer, Congress and anti-Israel protests in the US

JERUSALEM — One of the more intense moments on Capitol Hill this year was when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — the most senior Jewish lawmaker in U.S. history — took to the Senate floor to ask Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

Netanyahu has a long relationship with Schumer. And Schumer has said, effectively, that it was his moral obligation to try to force Netanyahu out.

Netanyahu clearly wasn’t pleased by Schumer’s remarks.

“Well, I think that democratic countries should not interfere with the democratic processes of other countries. And I think that that’s a rule that I’ve tried to accord, to live by. But I can’t say that others have abided equally to us. It’s wrong to do that. It shouldn’t be done.”

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and his view on the protests. Since 2015, when Netanyahu aligned with Hill Republicans and sought to prevent former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the Israeli premier has been tied closely with the GOP. This is a feeling shared by many in Israel and across the U.S. political landscape.

We told Netanyahu that he may find himself speaking to a room predominantly composed of Republicans on July 24 when he comes to Capitol Hill.

Netanyahu is clearly sensitive to this criticism. Netanyahu insisted that he’s “not a partisan. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m an Israeli patriot, and I speak on behalf of the Israeli people.”

Netanyahu said that polling in the U.S. shows that 80% of Americans support Israel and 20% support Hamas. Netanyahu seemed to be referring to a Harvard CAPS-Harris survey from April.

The prime minister, however, is clearly quite attuned to the wave of protests in the United States, which he said is akin to supporting “killers.”

“You have ‘Gays for Gaza.’ That’s an absurdity if I’ve ever heard one. If you are gay in Gaza, you’ll be shot in the back of the head. ‘Women for Gaza.’ What are women in Gaza? They’re chattel and other such absurdities.

“But nevertheless, they [protesters] are there. And I hope they don’t control American politics. I intend to speak to the broad spectrum of the American people and to cull bipartisan support that is still solid in America and we need it to stay solid.”

Yet the pro-Palestinian protests are a major problem for Biden and other top Democrats. The president and other senior Democrats can barely get through any public events without protesters interrupting their remarks. Biden’s support among younger voters — a key 2020 constituency — has also dropped precipitously.

The day after in Gaza. One thing we’ve heard from many on Capitol Hill is that Netanyahu has no plan for after the war in Gaza ends. The Israeli government has not said much — or anything at all — about its plans for the strip after the war.

We asked Netanyahu how he thinks about governing Gaza after the war ends:

“I think we’re going to have to have sustained demilitarization which can only be done by Israel against any resurgent terrorist effort. But I think there has to be a civilian administration to administer not only the distribution of humanitarian aid but also civil administration. That has to be done, I think best done, with the cooperation of an inter-Arab sponsorship and assistance by Arab countries.

“And then the third thing would be obviously some kind of deradicalization process that would begin in the schools and the mosques to teach these people a different future than the one of annihilating in Israel and killing every Jew on the planet. And the fourth, it would be reconstruction, which would be largely taken, I think, by the international community.”

We will, of course, be covering Netanyahu’s trip to D.C. and the reaction on Capitol Hill.

— Jake Sherman

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