Hazem Saghieh

The Potential Chuck Schumer Juncture

The matter will not be of interest to those who see politics as the "art of the impossible." As for those who see it as the "art of the possible" and believe that a lot of compromise and half-solutions are inherent to it, they cannot but be struck by the remarks of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He called for new elections in Israel in a recent speech, seemingly suggesting that Netanyahu no longer has a popular mandate. The latter has lost his way, becoming a prisoner of the past and "a significant obstacle to peace" who "all too frequently bowed to the demands of extremists like Ministers Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, who "have stoked tensions and violence."

Doubtful that Netanyahu would do such a thing, Schumer said that kicking out the two ministers would be "a real and meaningful step forward." That is because Israel's rejection of the two-state solution is a "grave mistake", and the country should change course to achieve lasting peace.

Schumer's statements coincided with the United States' announcement of sanctions on three additional Israeli settlers and, for the first time, on two agricultural entities. These measures were presented as part of the US and UK governments' efforts to put an end to the expulsion and displacement of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The fact is that it will not be easy to turn this rhetoric of Schumers' - a towering Democratic figure who is among the most ardent of Israel's traditional hardline supporters, as well as being the highest-ranking Jewish politician in US history - into the official position of the White House.

However, it would also be a mistake to ignore the fact that his remarks were preceded by a number of statements and insinuations by the president reflecting frustration with Netanyahu and disapproval of the barbaric manner in which he is waging this war. After the speech, Biden did not hesitate to call it a "good speech," and he stressed that Schumer "expressed a serious concern shared not only by him but by many Americans." Biden also mentioned that the Majority Leader "had informed the presidential staff about the speech before delivering it."

The executive shifting its position closer towards Schumer's is thus not impossible, though it is not guaranteed either. Joe Biden's presidential battle and its considerations will certainly bear on the direction he decides to take.

Netanyahu, as is well known, has not only alienated many across the globe, including in Israel itself, and turned them against him, but has also alienated the United States, the primary supporter of his country and its war, and turned it against him. Incidentally, he is already making up for lost ground in this regard as well, as he was the first prime minister in Israeli history to break with the tradition of standing with the White House, regardless of who is president, becoming embroiled in political and partisan disputes and siding with the Republicans.

In turn, the Reform Movement, the largest Jewish movement in the United States, expressed a position susceptible to change. Haaretz said the movement "agreed with the essence of the New York Senator's remarks", but "questioned whether they should have been said."

Overall, Schumer's words suggest that we could potentially see a change that results in an end to the death and prevents the war from spreading to other locations in the region. The formation of a broad coalition of those who can no longer tolerate Netanyahu or live with what he is doing could lead us to this outcome.

In addition to the American administration, this camp could include Western European countries, the Arab world, and the so-called Palestinian moderates, as well as Israeli opponents of Netanyahu and Jewish groups in the United States. Taking this course could do a lot to fracture the war camp within Israel, as many within it grudgingly tolerate their prime minister, because they believe that they too are targets of a genocidal war that the events of October 7 attested to.

Naturally, this trajectory, if it were to take off, would not lead to the liberation of Palestine, nor would it grant Hamas representation of Palestine and the Palestinians, nor would it be a victory of the "Global South" over the "white man." However, putting an end to the death and preventing the spread of violence should be regarded as a significant achievement, regardless of who declares "victory" in the end.

Such an achievement, if it were realized, would undoubtedly create a more suitable environment for waging political battles that grant the Palestinians more of the rights they are entitled to. It would also be a less bloody, painful, and destructive environment. This means that Schumer's stance could potentially be a transitional juncture if it is handled correctly, and it should be handled correctly.

Addressing intellectuals, though the sentiment applies to others as well, the French philosopher Raymond Aron asserted that one should ask, "What would I do if I were in the place of the statesman?" For him, the task is identifying the "possible" solution that would be best "for France or peace, or more consistent with our morals." He did not speak of "ideal solutions" or "moral solutions" in one go.

As for absolute and final judgments that cannot be implemented, their negative ramifications cannot always be undone, and for those who emphasize responsibility and practicality, like Raymond Aron, such an approach cannot be taken seriously.