by Matt Duss

The Obstacle Chuck Schumer Left Out of His Big Israel Speech

On March 15th, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech clarifying the clear rupture between Israel in 2024 and the Democratic Party of the present. A decade ago it would have been almost unthinkable for a sitting Senator, much less the leader of the Senate, to not only criticize Israel’s conduct of war, but to call for new elections in the country so that it may have better leadership.

Schumer’s speech outlined four obstacles to the two-state solution: Hamas and its supporters, radical right-wing Israelis in government and society, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As CIP executive vice president Matt Duss writes in The New Republic, Schumer left out a fifth party: the United States Congress.

“The recently passed spending bill, which the president signed last Saturday, is a great example of the destructive role Congress has played in this area. Not only does it block funding for the largest aid provider to Palestinians, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, based on as-yet unproven allegations that a few UNRWA employees took part in the October 7 attacks, but it includes a number of other long-standing anti-Palestinian measures like limiting aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians initiate or support an International Criminal Court investigation against Israel for human rights violations, or seek to upgrade their status at the United Nations or in other international fora. That is, it punishes the Palestinians for engaging in nonviolent diplomacy.”

Even as the Democratic party, and especially its base, has shifted towards wanting a more equitable outcome for Palestinians than in the past, actions like this undermine the pathways.

Duss continues:

“Monday’s decision [by the Biden administration] not to block a cease-fire resolution from the U.N. Security Council was a long-overdue step in the right direction, but the administration then undermined its impact by inexplicably and incorrectly characterizing the resolution as ‘nonbinding.’ The chasmic disconnect between this president’s words and deeds is part of what rankles. If he wants to repair the damage, if it can be repaired, he’s going to have to find a way to bridge that gap.”

The stakes are profound, most immediately for the lives in peril in Gaza. The stakes are also intimately connected to how and whether young, progressive Americans will engage with Biden and his administration in the fall. To win back trust, and ensure an outcome better from everyone, Congress and the President must match action to rhetoric and remove the roadblocks to ending this conflict and supporting sustainable and equitable peace.