Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

In almost every address to Jewish audiences throughout his decades in politics, New York Senator Charles Schumer has made a point of saying that his name means “guardian” in Hebrew and that he saw it as his duty to safeguard the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

Schumer’s Middle East speech to the Senate on Thursday was no exception. He said he very keenly felt his responsibility as shomer Yisrael – a guardian of the people of Israel.


But that did not stop Schumer from throwing Israel to the wolves a few minutes later. With this kind of guardian, it’s a good thing the Jewish state has a strong army and can defend itself.

Much has been made of Schumer saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and encouraging Israel to initiate early elections. While inappropriate to be said by a senator to a democratic ally of the U.S., at least it is a legitimate point of view.

The worst part of the speech was actually not what made headlines. It was when Schumer threatened his brothers in Israel in a way no true guardian ever would.

“If Prime Minister Netanyahu’s current coalition remains in power after the war begins to wind down and continues to pursue dangerous and inflammatory policies that test existing U.S. standards for assistance, then the United States will have no choice but to play a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course,” Schumer warned.

At a time of war, Israel needs love, not leverage – a term used only against adversaries, never about brothers. The Jewish State does not need its policies shaped from afar. It needs its allies to trust its consensus.

Schumer then added another line that started the right way yet insisted on adding an unfortunate “but” that completely contradicted the good part of the sentence.

“The United States’s bond with Israel is unbreakable,” he said. “But if extremists continue to unduly influence Israeli policy, then the Administration should use the tools at its disposal to make sure our support for Israel is aligned with our broader goal of achieving long-term peace and stability in the region.”

So much for a guardian. Schumer put his unattainable fantasy of achieving Middle East peace above the fate of his own brothers who have suffered enough from previous diplomatic misadventures. It’s like he got caught in a time warp, keeping him on October 6, while lecturing as an expert to Israelis who endured what happened the following day.

The “tools” Schumer refers to have been leaked and are known to the public: Predicating providing munitions on preventing an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah that is required to finish off both Hamas and the war. In other words, Schumer is threatening Israel that America could save Hamas out of frustration with Israel’s policies.

But the scariest word here is “should,” which would be no big deal if the speaker was an ordinary man offering polite advice, as in “you should tuck in your shirt.” This is the all-powerful senate majority leader, who has the ear of the president of the United States, the man who in his speech to the Senate reminded the world for the umpteenth time that he is “the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in America ever.”

Based on President Biden’s praise for the speech and the leak that the administration was told about it in advance, it is likely that Biden himself sent Schumer to do his dirty work in delivering the message that “Israel is still good but Netanyahu is bad.” Taking that into account this very threatening “should” is nothing short of a promise to harm Israel.

Biden used Schumer to deliver the message, like Jews have been used throughout history. Schumer could get away with it, because he has no election coming up, and when he will, the overwhelming majority of New York Jews will still vote for him.

That conversation between Biden and Schumer, in which the president got him to do his bidding, likely came after the senator delivered a speech to the AIPAC national leadership meeting three days earlier. I attended that speech, in which Schumer did not threaten Israel, insult its prime minister or make any headlines.

“I will never allow the bonds between Israel and the United States to grow weak,” Schumer told AIPAC last Monday. “The defense and security of Israel has always been one of my most important priorities ever since I came to Congress – but since October 7th, I have never been more certain that it’s the right thing to do.”

Schumer then called for the ousting of Hamas, not Netanyahu.

If only he had stopped delivering Middle East speeches for the week that day. But no, Schumer decided he had to become an Israeli political analyst.

“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, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government,” he said. “I also believe a majority of the Israeli public will recognize the need for change, and I believe that holding a new election once the war starts to wind down would give Israelis an opportunity to express their vision for the post-war future.”

Once again, Schumer started saying something and then contradicted himself by the time he completed his thought.

So when should Israel hold an election, Chuck? “At this critical juncture” or “once the war starts to wind down?” The answer matters, because these two times are opposites.

According to all recent polls in Israel, the overwhelming majority oppose holding an election during the war, tying the hands of their leaders and paralyzing the IDF. By contrast, when the war is over, all gloves are off, and engaging in politics would no longer undermine the war effort.

When the war ends must be decided by Israeli leaders based on the recommendations from the top IDF commanders in the field, not by the Senate majority leader or even by the president of the United States. Israel has a war cabinet, in which Netanyahu makes decisions together with two former chiefs of staff in Defense Minister Yoav Galant and his own rival for the premiership, Benny Gantz.

Together, Gantz and Galant have more than 80 years more experience in the IDF than Schumer, so why does he not let them decide? And he does not like Netanyahu, but he, too, is a war hero, who risked his life, was injured in battle, and lost his revered older brother to enemy fire.

Netanyahu, Galant and Gantz have their differences, which have been aired both publicly and privately. But they have managed to find a strong consensus among the people of Israel and serve them well.

It is the Israeli consensus that Schumer attacked, undermined and patronized by claiming to know better what is right for them.

Finally, in his last faulty attempt at Israeli political analysis, Schumer threatened Israel one more time.

“Of course, the United States cannot dictate the outcome of an election, nor should we try,” he said. “That is for the Israeli public to decide – a public that I believe understands better than anybody that Israel cannot hope to succeed as a pariah opposed by the rest of the world.”

Come on, Senator. You can’t say you won’t dictate and then dictate one line later.

Israel is not and never will be a pariah. Israel is defending itself from the same Islamic fundamentalist terror that attacked the United States in New York on September 11, 2001. America responded to that attack with much greater force and made much less effort to prevent civilian harm among its enemies.

If anyone is making Israel into a pariah, it is not Netanyahu, but Schumer, by highlighting and exaggerating Israel’s justified actions after the worst attack on its soil in its history.

This again is not what a guardian is supposed to do.

Jews pray every day for the Guardian of Israel to protect the remnant of the Jewish people. Ahead of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Guardian is the central focus of our Selichot prayers.

Thankfully, the Guardian the Jewish people pray for is not Schumer but G-d Himself.

And He has not let us down.


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Martin Oliner is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former President Donald Trump as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at [email protected].