Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is being roundly – and rightly – criticized for his failure to promptly condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israel at the outset of its latest military go-round with Hamas, and for his subsequent, rather laid-back expression of support for Israel.
At a news conference after the first rockets were launched, Schumer, together with Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, only went so far as to grudgingly say that “Israel had a right to defend itself” – as if what it was doing was something wrong and needed some justifying. And when pressed by a reporter, he simply deferred to Menendez who proceeded to chide Israel for the inadvertent, to be sure, deaths and injuries suffered by Palestinian civilians and children.
Of course Israel had more than a right to defend its citizens. It had a duty to do all that it could to neutralize the attackers and restore deterrence.
But there were no animated condemnations of Hamas and its terrorist rocket launchings intended to kill Israelis and no effusive expressions of support for Israel. None. From someone who recently joked that his name Schumer hearkened to the Hebrew word shomer (a watchman), this was disconcerting. And both have been ardent supporters of Israel in the past, especially Schumer, so something new was clearly in play.
Both Schumer and Menendez must remember how, not too long ago, they and other strong supporters of Israel were regularly accused of “dual loyalty,” of putting Israel’s interests above those of the United States. Even though Israel was the most reliable ally the U.S. has. Curiously, now that building a broad, clearly pro-American/ anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East around the Abraham Accords has plainly overtaken in importance the U.S. interest in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, no one is suggesting that those in Congress who are fixated on it – the Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, Pressley crowd – are guilty of dual loyalty.
Of course the conventional wisdom now is that Schumer is driven by his fear of a primary challenge in 2022 from Ocasio-Cortez who is emerging as the face of a growing left-wing caucus in the Democratic Party, which seems to be dedicated to reversing the heretofore rock solid congressional support for Israel.
And so this is no idle concern about Schumer’s current reticence. The recent military confrontation seems to us to be the result of Hamas’s calculation that a congressional reassessment had seriously begun and was ripe for exploitation. What seemed to be a foolhardy challenge to Israel now seems more and more purposeful as events unfolded.
The stark reality is that Israeli air power, which maintained complete control of the air during the war, devastated Hamas’s extensive network of tunnels, communications, military storage, intelligence and command infrastructure, yet did not lose a single airplane in the process. On the other hand, there was nothing even remotely similar suffered by Israel. Most of Hamas’s rockets were intercepted or fell in vacant lots or in Gaza. So Hamas did not have the “secret weapon” we all feared that would make their provocations a problem in the strict military sense.
Hamas knew it would be trounced militarily, but had other things in mind than a possible military victory. To them, this was more about Hamas wishing to divert President Biden’s ballyhooed “pivot” to Asia and to draw his attention to its Middle East narrative. It was about burnishing Hamas’s credentials as the principal military and political player in the Palestinian world as opposed to the moribund PA President Mahmoud Abbas, despite the latter’s having been able to cancel scheduled Palestinian elections which Hamas was expected to win. And, in the height of cynicism, it may even have hoped for ever greater devastation to its self to fuel notions of gross disproportionality and thereby draw greater sympathy to its cause. .
And, indeed, Hamas may well have prevailed in these regards.
But perhaps most important is what’s coming next in the U.S. Congress. And this is why Schumer’s key position looms so large. There have already been a flurry of proposed bills introduced by the hard Democratic Left that would drastically cut U.S. financial and military support for Israel and provide substantially increased assistance to the Palestinians.
As the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Schumer plays the key role as to which laws get enacted and which don’t. When he didn’t step up to the plate when all of this started, he may have unwittingly encouraged the Hamas terrorists. We hope that we and our fellow Americans who care about out national interests can rely upon him to now step up to the plate.