Mitch McConnell ramps up his criticism of Chuck Schumer in CNN interview

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ramped up his scathing criticism of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in the aftermath of the New York Democrat’s stunning call for a new leadership in Israel amid the brutal war in Gaza, underscoring the growing partisan divide over Israel – a rare issue that had long unified the two parties.

In an interview with CNN, McConnell said Schumer’s speech was a direct contradiction of US policy and called on the White House not to go down that road.

“You can’t spend years hyperventilating about foreign interference in our democracy and then turn around and tell allies, particularly democratic allies, who their leader should be and when they should have elections,” McConnell said. “It’s just completely at variance with the way we typically operate in a foreign country, which is to deal with whatever government has been chosen in a democracy.”

For a long time, Schumer has aligned himself with Benjamin Netanyahu, but broke with him Thursday on the Senate floor as he characterized the Israeli prime minister as an obstacle for peace.

“As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7. The world has changed, radically, since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past,” Schumer said.

Asked if Schumer being the first Jewish Senate majority leader in US history –  who has been outspoken on Israel for years – gives him the right to call for a change in leadership there, McConnell pushed back.

“Just because he’s Jewish doesn’t give him a pass to advocate something that’s completely inconsistent with our past approach to democratic countries,” McConnell said about Schumer, whose speech he watched as it was delivered from his office in the Capitol.

McConnell rejected calls for conditions on military aid to Israel – something some Democrats have called for in an effort to tamp down civilian deaths.

In his speech, Schumer explained his deep misgivings about the toll on innocent people in Gaza.

“I am anguished that the Israeli war campaign has killed so many innocent Palestinians,” he said. “I know that my fellow Jewish Americans feel this same anguish when they see the images of dead and starving children and destroyed homes.”

McConnell didn’t offer any criticism of the Israeli government, even as a growing number of Democratic leaders and voters have called for an immediate ceasefire.

“I’m not here to criticize our democratic ally and what they feel they need to do to settle things down. This is, if you’re looking for a parallel, what do you think we would do if we were attacked by the Mexicans or the Canadians? They have to live next door to this. Completely inappropriate for us to be dictating these policies for certainly the government of a democratic ally,” he said.

McConnell blamed the Biden administration for micromanaging the war in Gaza and said Schumer’s calling for “regime change” in the wrong country.

“They’ve also been guilty of trying to micromanage the war for the Israelis, which I think is also a mistake. And look, if we were gonna call for a regime change, why don’t we call for a regime change in Iran, for example,” he said.

And he said the US should approve more money for Israel by passing a supplemental spending bill but then “butt out” when it comes to Israel’s leadership.

“I think we should pass the supplemental, give them the financial assistance they need, and butt out when it comes to telling them who their government ought to be, or what their tactics ought to be, with this atrocity,” he said. “It’s almost like everyone forgot what happened on October 7th.”

Schumer’s office did not comment on McConnell’s criticism but pointed to a post from Israel opposition leader Yair Lapid who said Schumer’s speech is “proof that one by one Netanyahu is losing Israel’s biggest supporters in the US.”