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Netanyahu tells CNN Schumer’s call for Israel election was ‘totally inappropriate’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that comments from US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for new elections in Israel were “totally inappropriate.”

In a Senate speech that upended longstanding US policy, Schumer — who is the highest-ranking Jewish American in the US government and normally a staunch supporter of Israel — called Netanyahu a “major obstacle” to peace.

But in his interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union,” Netanyahu hit back.

“I think what he said is totally inappropriate. It’s inappropriate to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there,” Netanyahu told CNN.

“That’s something the Israeli public does on its own. We are not a banana republic,” he said.

Instead, efforts should be focused on “bringing down the Hamas tyranny,” Netanyahu said.

When pressed to comment on whether he would commit to new elections when the war winds down, Netanyahu said, “That’s something for the Israeli public to decide” and added that it was “ridiculous” to talk about it while the war is ongoing.

The humanitarian crisis impacting Palestinian civilians in Gaza has grown increasingly dire as Israel’s war against Hamas continues, a situation that has increased pressure on Democratic party officials, including President Joe Biden, to take a harder line against Israel.

US yet to see ‘credible’ Rafah plan

Speaking on a potential hostage deal with Hamas, Netanyahu told CNN Israel will keep trying to secure a deal that would see the release of 100 hostages in exchange for a six week pause in fighting. However, he said that the militant group’s “outlandish” demands were making negotiations more difficult.

“Time will tell, but Hamas’ outlandish demands … make that deal a lot more difficult, but we’re going to keep on trying, because we want those hostages back,” he said.

“We understand also that the one thing that gets Hamas to give them,” Netanyahu said, “is the continued military pressure that we are applying there.”

“So we will continue military pressure and we are going to continue to try to get those hostages out.”

Efforts are ongoing on reaching a truce. Mossad Director David Barnea is expected to travel to Doha for further talks next week.

Hamas’ latest proposal calls for Israel to release between 700 and 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for Hamas releasing Israeli women — including IDF soldiers — children, elderly, and wounded and sick hostages, a diplomatic source familiar with the discussions told CNN on Friday, confirming earlier reporting by Reuters.

The proposal envisions that a permanent ceasefire would be agreed upon after that initial exchange of hostages and prisoners, as well as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

In another source of tension between the US and Israel, the White House said Sunday it still has yet to see a “credible” plan from the Israeli government on how it would protect the hundreds of thousands of civilians in southern Gaza if it moves forward with a military operation in Rafah.

The comments come after Netanyahu confirmed his plans to press on with an operation, despite mounting international concern.

“I reiterate: We will operate in Rafah. This will take several weeks, and it will happen,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of a government meeting.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Abeer Salman contributed to this report.

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