Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Sunday tore into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over what Van Hollen said was Netanyahu’s refusal to acquiesce to President Joe Biden’s requests for more humanitarian action in Gaza amid the war with Hamas.

Appearing on ABC News’ “This Week,” Van Hollen, a Maryland lawmaker and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said Biden “needs to back up his ‘no excuses’ language with real action.”

“We have a situation where Netanyahu continues to essentially give the finger to the president of the United States, and we’re sending more bombs,” Van Hollen told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “And that doesn’t make sense.”

The senator has been a vocal proponent of reconsidering sending offensive weapons to Israel out of concern for the situation for civilians in Gaza and Israel’s expected invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where more than 1 million Palestinians are thought to be taking refuge.

“My view, Martha, is until the Netanyahu government allows more assistance into Gaza, to help people who are literally starving to death, we should not be sending more bombs,” Van Hollen said on Sunday.

Biden and other U.S. officials have voiced increasing frustration with Netanyahu and the way the Israeli military is prosecuting its campaign against Hamas in Gaza, given the high death toll overall.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack sparked the war, more than 32,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there.

Still, though the president and his top officials have spoken out about the Palestinians caught in the crossfire and warned that there could be “consequences” if the Israelis move into Rafah without a plan for civilians, the White House so far has declined to condition military aid or take other overt steps to pressure Netanyahu.

Raddatz on Sunday pressed Van Hollen on what additional steps he’d like to see from the administration, given Netanyahu’s resolve to go into Rafah and, in the prime minister’s words, finish dismantling Hamas’ fighting capabilities.

Van Hollen said there needs to be a “two-way street, not a one-way blank check with American taxpayer dollars.”

“I think we need to better use our leverage. We have different parts of leverage and one of them is sending more offensive weapons. So, President Biden needs to be as serious about ensuring more humanitarian assistance gets into Gaza as Netanyahu has been in making his demands,” he said.

PHOTO: Sen Chris Van Hollen speaks to reporters at a news conference on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on March 27, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sen Chris Van Hollen speaks to reporters at a news conference on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on March 27, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The administration has declined to submit new requests for weapons to Congress — opting instead to send packages that were already approved, which Van Hollen dubbed an “end run” around critics on Capitol Hill.

Though Van Hollen said he supports Israel’s ongoing operations against Hamas, specifically — noting the country “has a duty to defend itself” — “you could conduct this with fewer civilian casualties and certainly you could prevent the horror of this humanitarian catastrophe that we’re watching unfold.”

“One-third of the shipments of the humanitarian assistance into northern Gaza have been blocked in the last month. You could open Erez Crossing in the north and get assistance in right now. I mean, kids starve to death,” Van Hollen said.

He dodged, however, when pressed by Raddatz over whether he considers Netanyahu a war criminal after he singled out two hard-line members of the prime minister’s coalition for what he said were steps to block aid into Gaza.

“We’re going to have to make a decision as to what the intent of the full Israel government is … ultimately, that will have to be decided down the road,” he said.

A top Netanyahu adviser, Ophir Falk, insisted to ABC News earlier this month that Israel is doing enough for civilians in the war, saying that “maybe tens of thousands” of aid trucks have gone into Gaza since the beginning of the conflict.

“No other country would do that,” Falk said.

However, he said, Israel must also take steps to “verify it’s not being stolen by Hamas.”

Van Hollen on “This Week” separately also addressed the partial collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge last week. He said the government is dedicated to helping the city recover — including aiding the families of six workers who are believed to have been killed, all of whom had migrated to the U.S.

“It’s a clear example about the contributions and the sacrifices that immigrants make,” he said.

“The other priority right now is to open the channel because this is a thriving port of Baltimore. We have over 15,000 people working directly for the port. Thousands of others — their livelihood depends on the port. So, opening that channel is the priority,” Van Hollen said.

“The Army Corps of Engineers will cover all the cost of clearing the channel … The federal government will pay 90% of the [rebuilding] costs and Sen. [Ben] Cardin and I are planning to introduce legislation to cover the other 10.”



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