Sen. Chuck Schumer Slams Netanyahu As "Obstacle To Peace" | Crooked Media
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March 15, 2024
What A Day
Sen. Chuck Schumer Slams Netanyahu As "Obstacle To Peace"

In This Episode

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called for new Israeli elections to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., called Netanyahu an “obstacle to peace.” Ben Rhodes, co-host of Crooked’s ‘Pod Save The World’ and former deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama, explains what Schumer’s comments could signal about Democrats’ shifting attitudes toward Israel over the war in Gaza.
  • And in headlines: Vice President Kamala Harris made history by visiting an abortion provider in Minnesota, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office asked to delay its hush money case against former President Donald Trump by 30 days, and Pornhub blocked Texas users from using the site amid an ongoing legal battle over the state’s age verification law.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, March 15th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What a Day where like a SpaceX rocket yesterday, we two plan to reach new heights and then get completely lost at sea. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s giving Amelia Earhart. And I love that for us maybe. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Never to be heard from again on some island somewhere. Hopefully having a nice little drink. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Literally. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, Vice President Kamala Harris made history by visiting an abortion provider in Minnesota. Plus, we wrap up by talking about the controversy that got so many people who don’t care about the Royals, talking about the Royals. The altered photo of Kate Middleton. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for quote unquote “course corrections” by Israel, including the need to elect new leadership as the country’s genocidal acts in Gaza continue. Take a listen to a bit of his speech from the Senate floor. 


[clip of Chuck Schumer] As a lifelong supporter of Israel. It has become clear to me, the Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7th. 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. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, this declaration is significant for a couple of reasons, one of which is that Schumer is the highest ranking Jewish person in the U.S. government. And as Politico put it, his speech signals, quote, “that as far as criticizing Israel, the gloves are officially off.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, incredibly striking, incredibly far from what we once would have expected from him to say, what else did he have to say in this statement? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So he said a few things. He spoke about the viability of a two state solution. 


[clip of Chuck Schumer] Once Hamas is deprived of power, the Palestinians will be much freer to choose a government they want and deserve, with the prospect of a real two state solution on the table and, for the first time, genuine statehood for the Palestinian people. I believe they will be far more likely to support more mainstream leaders committed to peace. I think the same is true for the Israeli people. Call me an optimist, but I believe that if the Israeli public is presented with a path to a two state solution that offers a chance at lasting peace and coexistence, then most mainstream Israelis will moderate their views and support it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And here’s some of what he had to say about the US’s role in all of this. 


[clip of Chuck Schumer] On the Israeli side, the U.S. government should demand that Israel conduct itself with a future two state solution in mind. We should not be forced into a position of unequivocally supporting the actions of an Israeli government that include bigots who reject the idea of a Palestinian state. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And lastly, here are some of his comments about Israelis electing a new leader. 


[clip of Chuck Schumer] Five months into this conflict, it is clear that Israelis need to take stock of the situation and ask, must we change course? At this critical juncture? I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government. I also believe a majority of the Israeli public will recognize the need for change, and I believe that holding a new election. Once the war starts to wind down, would give Israelis an opportunity to express their vision for the postwar future. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay. Very significant statements from a U.S. congressional leader, not to mention a Jewish U.S. congressional leader. Schumer’s speech marks another move by Democrats away from their previous hug in public push in private approach, as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen. How might this impact where things are now in terms of a cease fire? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I had that same question. So I called up friend of the pod, Ben Rhodes, for an answer or two. Ben is one of the host of Crooked’s Pod Save the World, and a former deputy national security advisor to President Obama. I started by asking him for his immediate reaction to Schumer’s comments. 


Ben Rhodes: Yeah, I was pretty shocked because it’s not just a Democratic Party establishment. Chuck Schumer has been an incredibly reliable pro-Israel Democrat for a long time. Right. And so, first of all, this is the most direct challenge to Netanyahu from a senior elected Democrat other than, you know, say, Bernie Sanders. And it’s, you know, pretty blunt. It’s saying we think somebody other than Bibi Netanyahu should be leading Israel. So that’s not subtle. Frankly, I think it’s too late. This should have been obvious for a long time, but I guess better late than never. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, you just mentioned that Schumer called for an election in Israel. But, you know, the Senate majority leader doesn’t exactly have the power to, you know, snap his fingers and make elections happen in foreign countries. How much influence do you think his comments though will have in terms of Israeli politics and potentially this war that we are witnessing?


Ben Rhodes: Well, I think that the subtext to the whole war has been that Netanyahu’s popularity, which was already pretty tenuous on October 7th. Right, because there’d been a huge protest movement at his efforts to essentially neuter the Supreme Court in Israel and take greater control with his far right coalition. That popularity collapsed. And so the basic analysis of most people who watch Israeli politics is that Netanyahu, if there was an election, would lose. So for someone who’s as well known to the Israeli public as Chuck Schumer. To be saying, you know what? We’ve lost confidence in this guy. We think there should be an election. I don’t think that that means, you know, there’s an election tomorrow, but it definitely, you know, think of it as a shaky foundation under Netanyahu. And this definitely deals another blow to that foundation. But, you know, at the end of the day, Netanyahu’s a survivor, and he doesn’t want to leave the stage because, frankly, if he’s not prime minister, he could very well end up in prison. He has that in common with Trump. He’s under indictment. And so he’s got a lot of incentives, tragically, to both stay in power and to continue this war. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. So now Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate minority leader, he’s stepping down from that position. He said in a rebuttal that it was quote unquote “grotesque and hypocritical” for Schumer to call for the ouster of a democratically elected leader of another country. Let’s take a listen to a bit of that. 


[clip of Mitch McConnell] Israel is not a colony of America whose leaders serve at the pleasure of the party in power in Washington. Only Israel’s citizens should have a say in who runs their government. This is the very definition of democracy and sovereignty. Either we respect their decisions or we de– disrespect their democracy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Does he have a point? It’s a pretty big deal, after all, right? To say that there needs to be an election to replace Netanyahu. Is this as big of a deal as the headlines are making it? 


Ben Rhodes: I totally disagree with Mitch McConnell. No surprise there, in the sense that, first of all, Bibi Netanyahu has had no problem interfering in American politics for a very long time. Right? When I was in the White House and I was deputy National Security advisor, Bibi Netanyahu flew all the way to Washington at the invitation of then Speaker of the House John Boehner, to give a speech to a joint session of Congress opposing Barack Obama’s foreign policy, opposing the Iran nuclear deal. Why is it that Bibi Netanyahu gets to interfere carte blanche in American politics, and American politicians don’t get to have any say in what goes on in Israel? Frankly, I wish we were more comfortable speaking up when we think leaders like Netanyahu are way out of step with the values that we say we support. Look, this isn’t like a regime change policy. It’s not like we’re invading a country. You know, I’m against that. You know, I’m against, you know, trying to replace the leaders. We’ve learned that that doesn’t work, you know, but equating an American politician like Schumer having an opinion that he states publicly about what he thinks of the Israeli leadership, that’s not the same thing as saying as Mitch McConnell has done in plenty of times, we’re going to sanction this leader until they go away or we’re going to invade a country and pick its leader. That’s not what’s happening here. This is somebody saying, I think Netanyahu has failed as a leader, and I think that Israel would be more stable with an election. I wish we as progressives did a little bit more of that, frankly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So now, you already mentioned that for many of us, these types of reactions to the violence that’s ongoing in the Middle East is a little delayed for many of us, right? 


Ben Rhodes: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But I’m wondering what you think the impact of Schumer’s speech will be on the Biden White House. We know via reporting that he sent his remarks to them before he gave them. But does this kind of thing have the power to influence our policy? Will we see Biden being even more full throated in kind of articulating how Israel should be responding here? 


Ben Rhodes: I think so. I think the reason Schumer did this is, number one, it gives a lot of political cover, frankly, to Democrats in Congress to be more vocal about their concerns and to be more open to things like conditioning military assistance to Israel on its actions. Right. And I think it also, frankly, gives more backbone to the administration to say, look, right now they’re looking at a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, the city in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, where there are over a million Palestinians in dire circumstances facing a potential Israeli ground invasion. And they’re trying to do whatever they can to prevent Israel from doing that, because they know that that could significantly increase what is already humanitarian catastrophe. So I think what this is a part of is probably an effort by Schumer and the Biden administration to get across to the Israeli government, don’t do this. If you go into Rafah. We are going to start considering things like conditioning military aid, maybe considering things like voting for a ceasefire at the United Nations, things that, frankly, I think they should have already done. But again, I mean, this shows that this Rafah division and this division about whether there should even be the pursuit of a Palestinian state. I think this shows that the frustration is boiling over in the Democratic Party. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Part of me also wonders if this, you know, latest development will make things worse on the ground if this will harden Netanyahu’s resolve, any sense in that direction? We know Netanyahu. He has said in not so many words that he has disagreed with this. You know, kind of, I guess, more progressive push that the administration has been articulating lately. 


Ben Rhodes: I don’t think that’s possible in the sense that, you know, that argument is one you hear a lot, including from the administration, that, you know, by not breaking with Netanyahu, by continuing to support Israel unconditionally really, we’re able to kind of encourage them to let more assistance in. Or we’re able to kind of counsel them to be more restrained. But nothing that I’ve seen since October 7th suggests that that’s working. They’ve not been restrained in their military operation. They’re not really letting in assistance at anywhere near the scale that needs to take place. It is certainly possible that Netanyahu and the Israeli government just ignores this, goes forward with their plans in Rafah. Continues to limit assistance. However, we haven’t tried to exert leverage yet, you know, so we’ve tried the theory of supporting Israel unconditionally. We have not tried to exert any leverage through our military assistance, which they rely on for their offensive through our vote at the United Nations. You know, I’d rather see us try to be on the right side of the issue and exert leverage. And again, for people listening who care a lot about Israel, I’d say that the military operation, it’s not rescuing the hostages. The hostages have only gotten out through diplomacy. It’s not destroying Hamas. Hamas is an idea, and it’s an idea of resistance that is probably gaining momentum because of the scale of the civilian suffering. So whatever perspective you’re looking at this issue from, I think trying a different approach is more than warranted given what we’ve already seen in Gaza. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Ben Rhodes, thanks so much for giving us some of your time today. 


Ben Rhodes: No problem. Good to talk to you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Pod Save the World’s Ben Rhodes. And I do want to note that yesterday, right before we went to record, Axios reported that Hamas has responded to the latest hostage deal proposal. The proposal was given to Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and Hamas said in a statement that it includes a cease fire and the release of prisoners. They also demand the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, displaced Palestinians being able to return to their homes, as well as the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office responded via a statement, saying the country’s war cabinet will be updated today but that, quote, “Hamas continues with its preposterous demands.” And if you all out there want more on this topic in particular, tune into What a Day this weekend when Max Fisher and Erin Ryan dig into why Israel is getting bolder about defying America. But that’s the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Vice President Kamala Harris toured a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota yesterday. It’s believed to be the first time someone from the executive branch has made an official visit to an abortion provider in American history. Harris has been heavily campaigning on the issue of abortion as a way to mobilize voters for November. Take a listen to the vice president’s remarks from the clinic. 


[clip of Vice President Kamala Harris] And please do understand that when we talk about a clinic such as this, it is absolutely about health care and reproductive health care. So everyone get ready for the language. Uterus, [laughter] that part of the body needs a lot of medical care from time to time. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: Somebody tell that to the Republican lawmakers and maybe also explain to them what a uterus is. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m a little afraid of what they would do with that information. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Valid point. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But, I mean, we cannot overstate the significance of Vice President Harris being at Planned Parenthood yesterday, a place that is a site of so much essential health care for so many Americans. It’s really monumental. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office wants to delay its case against former President Donald Trump by 30 days. This one is over the alleged hush money payments that he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. The Manhattan DA’s office proposed the pause yesterday, they said that it would give Trump’s lawyers time to review new documents from federal prosecutors. This comes less than two weeks before Trump was set to stand trial. But even with this delay, the case is on track to go to trial before Election Day. Meanwhile, in Florida, a federal judge rejected one of Trump’s requests to throw out his classified documents case. Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, told the former president’s lawyers, quote, “It’s difficult to see how this gets you to the dismissal of an indictment after hearing their arguments.” But she is still yet to weigh in on when the case will actually go to trial. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The American Library Association released new data yesterday, saying that more books were targeted for censorship by individuals in organized campaigns in 2023 than the past two years combined. 4240 unique titles were challenged last year. That’s the highest number they’ve ever counted, and books with LGBTQ plus and characters of color made up almost half of the targeted titles. Also, to absolutely no one’s surprise, the states with the most books challenged were Texas and Florida. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe we try to get kids reading more books. 


Tre’vell Anderson: More books, right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Rather than taking them away. Just a thought. Reading is good. Reading, I feel like is a skill I rely on every single day. Let’s get those kids reading. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Reading is fundamental. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Oh, yes. Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is stepping down as the national cochairman of the centrist third party organization No Labels. They don’t have candidates yet, but yesterday the group announced plans for choosing who to run. Dems are generally worried about No Labels drawing voters away from Biden this year, which could give Trump a boost. The group has pushed back on that sentiment, saying that they are not interested in playing spoiler, so maybe they just shouldn’t. Take a listen to the group’s leader and former senator Joe Lieberman on CNN yesterday. 


[clip of Joe Lieberman] It’s decision time to try to find the best bipartisan unity ticket we can give the American people as the third choice they say they want overwhelmingly because they don’t want to have to choose again between Trump and Biden. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry. Half the people I talk to are like blissfully unaware that an election is really even happening this November. I don’t really think we need to add more options into the mix. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’re making a point there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just a thought. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Pornhub, one of the most popular pornographic websites, blocked users in Texas starting yesterday. The reason is because of an ongoing legal battle over a state age verification law. The Republican led state legislature passed a law last year that would make users upload and verify their identity to get on Pornhub every time they try to access the website. Last month, Attorney General Ken Paxton actually sued Pornhub for not complying with the law and won in federal appeals court last week, which led to the block. Now, if users try to access the website in Texas, they’re greeted with a long, frustrated message in which the company calls the state’s law, quote, “ineffective, haphazard and dangerous.” This is not the first state this has happened in either. There are currently 17 states that have passed or introduced similar age verification laws for access to pornographic websites. And you know, I had to look this up. Priyanka. But there was a 2018 study that Pornhub did. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, the scholars at Pornhub. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen okay. Tracking the number of people who come to their website. And Texas was the number two state. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oof. 


Tre’vell Anderson: For 2017. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That sounds like a lot of pissed off people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: My point exactly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if, listen, [laughter] if this is what mobilizes the people against [laughter] Ken Paxton and the leadership in Texas, I’ll take it. It’s fine. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, TikTok and pornography will change the world apparently. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. Stay tuned for a little tea time about none other than the missing Princess of Wales. We’ll be right back. 




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday squad, and before we wrap up for the week, we have to join the public in asking the question where in the world is Kate Middleton? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, it’s a real Carmen San Diego situation. If you haven’t heard about all the drama surrounding the Princess of Wales, you must be living under a rock because we could not escape it if we tried. It has gotten so bad that just yesterday, one of the world’s largest news agencies, AFP, said that they no longer consider Kensington Palace a, quote, “trusted source” after this snafu over the latest photo release. But the one thing we do know for certain is that this whole thing is a massive, massive mess. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No longer considering the palace to be, like, trustworthy?


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s huge to me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes! 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s like big. What’s going on over there? Something’s amiss. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a monarchy of a major nation [laughter] like absolutely bananas. And um speaking of bananas, in a hard right here. But in the middle of all of this, who but Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, don’t know if we’re using the title or not? Apparently she is still. Picked yesterday of all days to announce her new lifestyle brand. We’re not really sure what it is? It’s called American Riviera Orchard. It’s incredibly confusing. But yes, um just of all the times in the world that she could have done this, just mess on top of mess. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm mm. And just like that, we have checked our temps. They’re a little skeptical but we’re holding out hope. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All over the place. [music break]. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Someone gift Kate Middleton a masterclass video on photo editing. All right, and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just all the books conservatives want to ban, because that means they’ve got to be good like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And don’t mess with the books and porn Texas. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe they’ll learn their lesson? Maybe they won’t. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe they won’t. They probably won’t. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They probably won’t. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Adrienne Hill is our executive producer. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.