Capehart Hails Schumer’s ‘Incredible Speech’ Trashing Netanyahu

News & Politics

On Friday’s PBS NewsHour, Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart hailed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “incredible speech” where he trashed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace and called for new Israeli elections. His counterpart, New York Times columnist David Brooks, tried to have it both ways, claiming he agreed with Schumer, but also that Schumer was helping Hamas.

Host Amna Nawaz asked Capehart, “Jonathan, you interviewed the president last week. You asked him about his red lines. Has a red line with Netanyahu now been crossed?”

Capehart claimed that he did, and “If you take Majority Leader Schumer’s incredible speech, put that on top of what the president told me last week, which was, yes, if Netanyahu crosses over into Rafah, that would be a red line for him, and that on top of the now very vocal opposition to Netanyahu that’s been coming from the administration, from the secretary of State and other senior officials in the administration.”

For Capehart, the issue with American-Israeli relations isn’t that Joe Biden feels the need to appease voters in Michigan, but Netanyahu, “We are seeing a widening break, not between the United States and Israel, but between the United States and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who the Biden administration from the president on down view as an obstacle not just to peace, but to some sort of resolution to what’s happening in the Israel-Hamas war, but especially a resolution to the humanitarian crisis that’s happening in Gaza.”

Nawaz then turned to Brooks, “David, how big a shift is this in the U.S. approach?”

Brooks began with a wishy-washy assessment of Schumer’s speech, “For Chuck Schumer, it’s pretty big. He’s been very pro-Israel. And so I do think it’s a big shift. I agree with everything he said about Bibi Netanyahu. I still think he shouldn’t have said it. He shouldn’t certainly have said it that way. A, it’s just not becoming to try to interfere in another democracy’s electoral process, especially if you’re a major figure in the American election.”

He then pointed out the strategic problem with Schumer’s behavior:

Second, I worry about how it’s being received by Hamas. So, Hamas’s strategy is to get as many Palestinians killed as possible and hoping that the ensuing outrage is going to cause the international community to crack down on Israel and Israel will have to relent. And they see Chuck Schumer doing that, and they think, which they already think, which is they’re winning. And, frankly, when they see what President Biden told to Jonathan about the red line, it was a little fuzzy the way he said it. Was he against a Rafah invasion, or only if the Israelis don’t really improve their humanitarian record?”

Brooks also pointed out the problem with Capehart’s logic of blaming Netanyahu for the politicizing of relations between the two countries:

But if he’s against the — Rafah — any kind of incursion into Rafah, as Benny Gantz, the Defense secretary of Israel, said, when you’re fighting a fire, you can’t only fight 80 percent of the fire. And the hostages and a significant chunk of Hamas forces are in Rafah. And if you let them win, if you let them stay there, there will never be a two-state solution, because there will never be a two-state solution as long as Hamas is in power. And so I mostly worry about the dynamic on the spiritual battlefield, where Hamas suddenly feels emboldened.

Brooks is right to point out that Gantz, a big Netanyahu rival, agrees with Netanyahu’s policy, but then why did he say he agreed with Schumer and the only problem was saying it out loud?

Here is a transcript for the March 15 show:

PBS NewsHour

3/15/2024

7:48 PM ET

AMNA NAWAZ: Jonathan, you interviewed the president last week. You asked him about his red lines. Has a red line with Netanyahu now been crossed?

JONATHAN CAPEHART: I think so. If you take Majority Leader Schumer’s incredible speech, put that on top of what the president told me last week, which was, yes, if Netanyahu crosses over into Rafah, that would be a red line for him, and that on top of the now very vocal opposition to Netanyahu that’s been coming from the administration, from the secretary of State and other senior officials in the administration.

We are seeing a widening break, not between the United States and Israel, but between the United States and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who the Biden administration from the president on down view as an obstacle not just to peace, but to some sort of resolution to what’s happening in the Israel-Hamas war, but especially a resolution to the humanitarian crisis that’s happening in Gaza.

NAWAZ: David, how big a shift is this in the U.S. approach?

DAVID BROOKS: For Chuck Schumer, it’s pretty big. He’s been very pro-Israel. And so I do think it’s a big shift. I agree with everything he said about Bibi Netanyahu. I still think he shouldn’t have said it. He shouldn’t certainly have said it that way. A, it’s just not becoming to try to interfere in another democracy’s electoral process, especially if you’re a major figure in the American election.

Second, I worry about how it’s being received by Hamas. So, Hamas’s strategy is to get as many Palestinians killed as possible and hoping that the ensuing outrage is going to cause the international community to crack down on Israel and Israel will have to relent.

And they see Chuck Schumer doing that, and they think, which they already think, which is they’re winning. And, frankly, when they see what President Biden told to Jonathan about the red line, it was a little fuzzy the way he said it. Was he against a Rafah invasion, or only if the Israelis don’t really improve their humanitarian record?

But if he’s against the — Rafah — any kind of incursion into Rafah, as Benny Gantz, the Defense secretary of Israel, said, when you’re fighting a fire, you can’t only fight 80 percent of the fire. And the hostages and a significant chunk of Hamas forces are in Rafah. And if you let them win, if you let them stay there, there will never be a two-state solution, because there will never be a two-state solution as long as Hamas is in power.

And so I mostly worry about the dynamic on the spiritual battlefield, where Hamas suddenly feels emboldened.

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