Schumer rips Obama administration on handling of Israel

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) Thursday took some shots at the Obama administration's handling of Israel, calling it "terrible" and "counterproductive."

Schumer, the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, is one of the highest-ranking members of the party to sharply criticize Obama administration efforts to take on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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"I told the president, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counterproductive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk," Schumer said on the Nachum Segal radio show.

The senator, who is a strong ally of Israel, expressed disappointment with the administration's decision to demand that Israel halt all settlement construction as a precondition to full peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

That stance has resulted in some high-profile disputes between Israel and the White House. Netanyahu, whose government is a mostly right-wing coalition, announced the construction of new settlements during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel last month.

The administration saw this as a slap, and Netanyahu later apologized for the timing.

When he visited the U.S. in late March, Obama declined a photo opportunity with Netanyahu and reportedly did not dine with him — widely considered a major snub of a long-time ally. 

Schumer, who recently co-signed a letter from over 360 lawmakers asking for Obama to repair U.S. ties with Israel, expressed anger with comments by a State Department spokesman asking Israel to demonstrate it is committed to the peace process.

"That is terrible," Schumer said. "That is the dagger because the relationship is much deeper than the disagreements on negotiations, and most Americans — Democrat, Republican, Jew, non-Jew, would feel that. So I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, 'If you don’t retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this.'"