Netanyahu tells Republicans Gaza war will continue, days after Schumer speech

Netanyahu tells Republicans Gaza war will continue, days after Schumer speech
Israel's premier addressed the Republican party via a videolink in which he vowed to continue the war in Gaza, despite growing international concern.
3 min read
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) steps aside to let Senate Minority Whip John Thine (R-SD) speak during a news conference following a Senate Republican policy luncheon at the US Capitol building on March 20, 2024 in Washington, DC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Republican senators on Wednesday that Israel will continue its efforts to defeat the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, senators told reporters after he addressed a party lunch.

"He's going to do what he said he's going to do. He's going to finish it," Senator Jim Risch said.

The conservative Israeli leader spoke to Republicans via videolink nearly a week after the Senate's Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, gave a Senate speech branding Netanyahu an obstacle to peace and urging new elections in Israel.

Wednesday's meeting underscored the politicization of Washington's Israel policy. Netanyahu has long been aligned with Republicans, who accuse Schumer of seeking to overthrow the Israeli leader.

"We asked ... him for an update and we got it on the war, on the release of the hostages and in the efforts to defeat Hamas. We told him Israel has every right to defend themselves and he said that's exactly what they continue to do," Senator John Barrasso said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, told reporters he was thinking of inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, although such invitations to foreign leaders would normally be extended by both Johnson and Schumer as Senate majority leader.

Democrats have been grappling with party divisions over the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza in a war that began with an Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas fighters who killed 1,200 people and captured 253, according to Israeli tallies.

A spokesperson for Schumer said that Netanyahu had offered to speak to the Democrats as well, but Schumer declined, saying that the conversations should not be partisan.

"I care deeply about Israel and its long-term future. When you make the issue partisan, you hurt the cause of helping Israel," Schumer told reporters.

Progressives have called on President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to put more pressure on Israel to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Hamas-ruled Gaza, where health authorities say nearly 32,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Netanyahu had addressed civilian casualties and the need to get more aid into Gaza. He said Netanyahu was "very supportive" of plans to build a temporary pier and bring in aid by sea.

"He's very sensitive to the fact that every civilian casualty is a very unfortunate event," Risch said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Netanyahu had made a presentation and then taken questions from senators.

"I made it clear to him, that it's not the business of the United States to be giving a democratic ally advice about when to have an election or what kind of military campaign they may be conducting," McConnell told reporters. 

(Reuters)

 
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