Netanyahu publicly rejects US push for Palestinian state

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The Israeli Prime Minister vowed to press on with the offensive in Gaza ‘until complete victory’
By Mark Lowen
BBC News, Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has told the United States that he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state once the conflict in Gaza comes to an end.

In a news conference, a defiant Mr Netanyahu vowed to press on with the offensive in Gaza “until complete victory”: the destruction of Hamas and return of the remaining Israeli hostages, adding that it could take “many more months”.

With almost 25,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and 85% of the strip’s population displaced, Israel is under intense pressure to rein in its offensive and engage in meaningful talks over a sustainable end to the war.

Israel’s allies, including the US – and many of its foes – have urged a revival of the long-dormant “two-state solution”, in which a future Palestinian state would sit side-by-side with an Israeli one.

The hope in many circles is that the current crisis could force the warring parties back to diplomacy, as the only viable alternative to endless cycles of violence. But from Mr Netanyahu’s comments, his intention appears quite the opposite.

During Thursday’s news conference, he said Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

“This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also stopped the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu has spent much of his political career opposing Palestinian statehood, boasting just last month that he was proud to have prevented its establishment, so his latest remarks come as no surprise.

But the very public rebuttal of Washington’s diplomatic push, and determination to stay the current military course, show the chasm widening with Israel’s western allies.

Since the 7 October attacks – the worst in Israel’s history, when Hamas gunmen killed about 1,300 Israelis and took some 240 hostage – the US has supported its right to defend itself.

But as the death toll in Gaza has grown, and the scenes of horror there have abounded, Western governments have called for Israeli restraint.

The White House has repeatedly tried to influence Israel’s military policy: urging more precision-guided weapons rather than the blanket air strikes; discouraging a ground offensive; and calling for a two-state solution, with a role for the Palestinian Authority in post-conflict Gaza.

Protesters in Tel Aviv have been calling for the safe release of Israeli hostages

But Washington’s advice has frequently fallen on deaf ears or been met by outright rejection – often publicly so, during visits by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

That, in turn, has hardened frustration in some American circles over the Biden administration’s apparent blanket support for Israel, with strident calls to put conditions on US aid to its Middle East ally.

Responding to Mr Netanyahu’s latest comments, White House national security adviser John Kirby said his government would not stop working towards a two-state solution, adding there would be “no reoccupation of Gaza.”

Israel’s prime minister’s comments will please his dwindling support base and the far-right ministers who prop up his government.

But they will dismay those at home and abroad who are increasingly horrified by the human cost of this war. Recent polls show most Israelis want him to prioritise bringing the remaining hostages home over the potentially impossible aim of destroying Hamas.

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