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WASHINGTON: The leader of the US Senate called Thursday for Israel to hold new elections in the most strident criticism yet by a senior American official of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza.

The remarks from Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jewish American in history, came amid increased pressure from President Joe Biden over the mounting death toll in the conflict, sparked by the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

“As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice,” said Schumer, the head of the chamber’s Democratic majority, without suggesting a timeline for a vote.

“There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after October 7.”

Schumer said Netanyahu was one of four “major obstacles” to a two-state solution and peace, alongside Hamas and its Palestinian supporters, radical right-wing Israelis and the Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He accused the Israeli leader of surrounding himself with right-wing extremists and being “too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows.”

“Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah,” Schumer, an outspoken ally of the Israeli government who visited the country just days after the attacks, told colleagues on the Senate floor.

He warned that if Netanyahu’s coalition continued to pursue “dangerous and inflammatory” policies after the war, the United States would look at playing “a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course.”

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