Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Sunday called Benjamin Netanyahu “an exceptionally difficult partner” for the U.S. to work with amid the war in Gaza after the Israeli prime minister said he was “proud” to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Coons said while the U.S. has been right to support Israel in its fight against Hamas following the brutal Oct. 7 attack that claimed the lives of around 1,200 Israelis, it’s been tough dealing with Netanyahu.
“What has been a real challenge is the big gap between most of us in Congress and the president who believe a two-state solution is the only way forward, and Prime Minister Netanyahu who has done everything he can to undermine a positive vision for peace for Israel,” Coons said.
Netanyahu on Saturday said “among friends it’s important not to foster illusions,” alluding to the U.S. support for a two-state solution.
“I’m proud that I prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu also pledged to continue the war, which has so far claimed the lives of over 18,700 Palestinians, according to local officials. IDF forces also accidentally killed three hostages in Gaza Friday, prompting calls from countries, including the U.K. and Germany, for a “sustainable” cease-fire.
“Israel has the right to defend itself but, in doing so, it must abide by international humanitarian law. Israel will not win this war if its operations destroy the prospect of peaceful coexistence with Palestinians,” U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote in The Sunday Times.
Asked to weigh into whether the Biden administration should apply conditions on additional military aid to Israel in light of the country’s relentless bombing of Gaza, as many progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have demanded, Coons replied that recipients of U.S. support are already required to adhere by international law.
Coons added that Biden and other U.S. officials have visited Israel since the war began and “have had some success in pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu to change direction, most recently in reining in settler violence in the West Bank.”
But Coons echoed Biden in saying that right-wing figures in Netanyahu’s government, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, have made it hard for the Israeli leader to move.
Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Israel appears to be ignoring U.S. calls for more restraint in order to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza, adding that the U.S. “is not a bystander to this” as long as it is providing funding and equipment for Israel’s war.
“We continue to see unacceptably high levels of civilian casualties,” Van Hollen told ABC’s “This Week.” “And when it comes to the humanitarian crisis, we still have a near-total siege.”
Van Hollen also took direct aim at Netanyahu, noting the prime minister’s efforts to weaken the Palestinian Authority, which opposes Hamas.
“This is the organization that recognized Israel’s right to exist decades and decades ago,” Van Hollen said. “Instead of trying to find peace, or at least preventing the conditions on the ground from changing with additional settlements to allow a two-state solution, he has shut the door on that effort.”