Coons defends US handling of Israel: Biden has ‘taken forceful action’

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Sunday pushed back against criticism of the Biden administration’s review of Israel’s war conduct in Gaza, arguing that President Biden has “taken forceful action.”

In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” co-anchor Martha Raddatz referenced Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) comment last week that the U.S.’s review of Israel’s war conduct was “woefully inadequate.”

Asked for his response, Coons said, “Well, I disagree. I think President Biden has taken forceful action.”

“So much so there’s been a lot of blowback for his recent public statement. And I’ll remind you, other American presidents have done the same thing when a close, trusted partner isn’t listening to private admonitions,” he continued.

In a highly anticipated report from the State Department released last week, the U.S. concluded it was “reasonable to assess” Israel violated international humanitarian law while stopping short of determining wrongdoing as it did not find specific instances of violations.

The report pointed to the more than 34,000 Palestinians killed in the ongoing war in Gaza, according to local health officials, and said there were “sufficient reported incidents to raise serious concerns” about how Israel has conducted its wartime campaign against Hamas.

Van Hollen, who repeatedly pushed for Biden to recognize the death toll as a result of Israel’s war conduct, said the report showed a “big gap” in the assessment of reports from international nongovernmental organizations that have criticized the Israeli military’s actions.

“So, for my colleague and friend, Sen. Van Hollen, to say that there’s been no consequences and no forceful action by President Biden, I think, misses the point here — that President Biden has, over and over, urged the far-right government of Prime Minister Netanyahu to take the appropriate action and have now publicly said what the consequences will be,” Coons said Sunday.

Biden warned last week that he would stop supplying Israel with offensive weapons — including bombs and artillery shells — should Israeli forces launch an invasion of Rafah. The White House has repeatedly urged Netanyahu against sending forces into Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are seeking refuge from the war.

Netanyahu has maintained that moving into Rafah is necessary to go after the leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that has run the Gaza Strip since 2007 and carried out the Oct. 7 surprise assault against Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

Coons said he believes Biden “will act” should Netanyahu push forward with a full-scale assault on Rafah.

“I think we’ll be looking closely at the path forward that Prime Minister Netanyahu chooses in the days ahead,” Coons said.

“Martha, I’ll remind you and your viewers, it was just three weeks ago that President Biden ably came to Israel’s defense, in partnership with the British, the French, the Saudis and the Jordanians when Iran launched 300 missiles and drones at Israel,” he added later. “It’s clear we are willing to strongly defend Israel, but he’s urging … Prime Minister Netanyahu to choose the path of peace that’s right in front of him, that requires reaching a deal with regional actors.”

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