Cruz: Schumer Doesn’t Want to Talk About Israel Crisis Because He Fears an AOC Primary Challenge

Patrick Goodenough | May 20, 2021 | 3:22am EDT
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Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in Queens last year. (Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in Queens last year. (Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

( – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday challenged Senate Democrats to stand up to their left-wing House colleagues, whom he said were acting as “press agents” for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas by “parroting” its propaganda.

He criticized Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in particular, accusing him of avoiding taking a stand on the Mideast crisis for fear of antagonizing the left – and risking a potential primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Cruz was addressing a GOP press conference on the conflict in Israel and Gaza on a day when President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a phone call “that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a White House readout.

Cruz and others at the briefing took Biden to task for that stance.

“Joe Biden’s been rapidly caving to the left this week,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) “He started out by saying he supports Israel’s right to defend itself. Then it became, ‘he supports a ceasefire.’ Then his aide said, well, he talked really tough to Benjamin Netanyahu. Today he said he expects ‘a significant de-escalation’ from Israel. Joe Biden pretty soon is going to be supporting a resolution to block arm sales to Israel.”

Cruz spoke about Hamas’ deliberate tactic of firing rockets at Israel civilians while operating from among Palestinian civilians – of “locating military assets where innocent Palestinian civilians are likely to be the inadvertent targets of any act to strike back against the terrorists.”

“They use human shields, and what do the Democrats do? The Democrats act as their press agents,” he charged. “It is Hamas that is killing these human shields – and the Democrats and the press are happily parroting that propaganda language.”

Cruz recalled that he led a bipartisan resolution several years ago condemning the use of human shields as a war crime – and noted that it passed in the Senate unanimously.

“But right now the Democratic Party is governed and led by the extreme left, by the ‘Squad’ – by AOC [Ocasio-Cortez], and [Rashida] Tlaib and [Ilhan] Omar, whose statements might as well be issued on behalf of Hamas.”

“They are accusing Israel of engaging in terrorism,” he said. “Defending your citizens from violent terrorist attacks is the right of Israel.”

Cruz challenged Senate Democrats: “They have an opportunity to decide right now where do they stand.”

He said a journalist told him shortly before the press conference that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had told him, “I don’t want to answer any questions on Israel.”

“Well I bet he doesn’t,” Cruz continued. “I bet he doesn’t because he’s so scared of AOC ‘primarying’ him from the left that he doesn’t want to say anything to anger the anti-Israel extreme left of the Democratic Party.”

Later, after a reporter mistakenly referred to “Senator Ocasio-Cortez” Cruz laughed at the slip, but said, “she might very well primary Chuck Schumer. She’s certainly setting Schumer’s policy and setting Biden’s policy.”

“Listen, her rhetoric and Omar’s and Tlaib’s rhetoric has been shameful in this regard, and particularly at a time like this,” he said. “Attacking and undermining Israel, accusing Israel of committing acts of terrorism as the Squad has done, it is unconscionable.”

“And look, after a while, when every criticism they have is always directed at Israel and not at the terrorists attacking them, you start to wonder if there’s a pattern,” he continued. “We’ve seen anti-Semitic comments from the Squad, but the pattern starts to be remarkably consistent.”

(In a statement early this week responding to reports of the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions or JDAM kits to Israel, Omar accused Israel of “crimes against humanity” but did also criticize Hamas, saying that its indiscriminate rocket attacks that have killed Israeli citizens “is also a war crime.”)

On Wednesday Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) introduced a resolution aimed at blocking the JDAM sale.

“The harsh truth is that these weapons are being sold by the United States to Israel with the clear understanding that the vast majority of them will be used to bomb Gaza,” Tlaib said.

‘Primarying’ Schumer

Mounting or threatening to mount a primary campaign against an incumbent member of Congress has become increasingly common in recent years, especially on the left.

A relevant recent example of a successful effort was the defeat last summer of 16-term veteran New York Rep. Eliot Engel by Justice Democrats-backed candidate Jamaal Bowman.

Although Bowman’s platform focused on Engel’s purported “absence” from his district rather than his ideology, progressives were irritated by his pro-Israel stance and his opposition to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.

Ocasio-Cortez herself entered Congress after defeating ten-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District in 2018, also with the backing of Justice Democrats.

Schumer, also from New York, is up for re-election in 2022 and Ocasio-Cortez is seen a potential threat. Early this year she did not definitely rule out the possibility she could mount a challenge.

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