Joshua Z. Rokach

Ignore Sen. Schumer at your peril

biden hugs netanyahu 2023/
Biden and Netanyahu hugging 2023/

Last week, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), the majority leader of the US Senate, caused a stir with his speech on the Gaza War. For a little over 45 minutes, Sen. Schumer laid out his vision for the future coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and their neighbors in the Middle East. He urged new leadership. Sen. Schumer drew condemnation in Israel. Unfortunately, the firestorm misunderstood the message and ignored the very real danger Israel faces if it continues the status quo.

The media in Israel, and the Prime Minister, boiled the message down to “Schumer seeks PM’s ouster.” Others, including Benny Ganz, decried “interference” in Israel’s internal affairs and did not understand how Israel could conduct an election during a war. All this misses the point.

I watched the entire speech. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid had it right. Sen. Schumer spoke in sorrow, not in anger. He said unequivocally that unless change occurs, Israel risks isolation. He did not say and he may not agree, but Israel risks losing support from President Biden. Yes, despite his rhetoric calling himself a Zionist and his embrace post-October 7.

It comes down to his approach to politics and his prospects in this election year. He has alienated many voters he needs to rely on, in what might end up as a close race. He must win them back.

Observe the pattern of his behavior: in order to become Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate, he promised not to run for president. He ran. In order to get elected in 2020, he promised to serve one term, as a “transitional” president. He is running in 2024. Observe the U turns belying his words in two important areas of public policy — quietly on climate change and openly on immigration. If true to form, he will do the same thing here.

First, climate change. Biden likes to boast that he has done more to combat climate change than any other president in American history. He points to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and its incentives for clean energy. To quote Al Smith, “let’s look at the record.”

Biden may want a livable climate, but he understands the political fallout from high gasoline prices. Indeed, in 2008, candidates (but fortunately, not Sen. Obama) fell over themselves to propose a gasoline tax holiday when prices hit and exceeded $4.00 per gallon. Forget that the tax holiday doesn’t lower prices; it transfers the money to oil companies. Most voters don’t know that and think otherwise.

In a quiet way, President Biden has allowed record high oil drilling on federal lands, even in pristine Alaska. He has made the 2023 US production the highest in world history, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Because of the working life of oil wells, the trend will continue for decades. So much for combating climate change and eliminating fossil fuels.

Immigration policy presents a starker case. Too many in the US, a nation of immigrants and their descendants, embody the Biblical adage, “[He] grew fat and kicked.” (Deuteronomy 32:15). The former administration introduced the cruelest, most inhumane measures to keep out desperately poor people fleeing violence, oppression and (as in today’s Haiti) societal disintegration. Candidate Biden promised compassion and a return to international and US legal standards.

Cut to 2024. Polls show immigration as a very important issue for voters, namely, keeping immigrants out. In an effort to defuse the issue, President Biden agreed to an immigration overhaul which violated US and international law, namely:

  • Toughened the standard of “reasonable fear of persecution” for asylum seekers
  • Required proof by “clear and convincing” evidence, rather than more likely
  • Allowed counsel but the immigrant must pay
  • Restricted court review
  • Disallowed asylum claims when the immigrant could have applied in Mexico


  • Required cutting off all immigration at the border if the number of entries exceeded specified limits.

On the last point, President Biden announced he would shut the border immediately if the law passed. Fortunately, Republicans reneged. Biden contemplates taking some or all of these harsh measures through executive action.

Electoral votes from the states decide presidential elections – see 2016. Specifically, voters in seven will decide this year’s. Among them, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia house large Arab-American communities and young people on campus. So far, Biden has made minimal gestures, such as sanctions on individual Israeli settlers, to placate these voters. As they are not working, perhaps he will go farther in ways Israel and its supporters won’t like.

Nobody knows. Ignore Sen. Schumer at your peril..

About the Author
Joshua Z. Rokach is a retired appellate lawyer and a graduate of Yale Law School.
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