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Netanyahu again rejects Palestinian sovereignty amid fresh US push for two-state solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday rejected calls for Palestinian sovereignty following talks with US President Joe Biden about Gaza’s future, suggesting Israel’s security needs would be incompatible with Palestinian statehood.

“I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan - and this is contrary to a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said in a post on X

The Israeli leader did not provide any other details in his one-line post in Hebrew. The territory west of Jordan encompasses Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Hamas-run Gaza, where Israel is battling the militant group following the October 7 attacks.

Biden and his top officials — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Israel and the region last week — have said the creation of a Palestinian state with guarantees for Israel’s security is the only way to finally bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called opposition to a two-state solution “unacceptable.”

“The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable,” Guterres posted on X.

Amid reports the US, Egypt and Qatar want Israel to join a new phase of talks with Hamas, Netanyahu this weekend also publicly rejected what he characterized as Hamas’ terms for releasing more Israeli hostages from Gaza: an end of the war, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian enclave, and the release of more Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

“If we agree to this - our soldiers fell in vain. If we agree to this - we will not be able to guarantee the security of our citizens,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

Global calls for a Palestinian state

Netanyahu’s comments comes amid a rift with the US, Israel’s most important ally, on what Gaza will look like once the conflict ends, and exposes the complex position Netanyahu is in.

The Israeli prime minister is facing competing pressure from the international community to allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state and domestically to guarantee Israel’s security, most notably from far-right members of his coalition.

Adding to the pressure, he is also facing calls for early elections, with thousands taking to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday. Critics have accused Netanyahu of prolonging the war to stay in power. War cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot says he hopes that is not the case, but also says elections should happen within months.

Netanhahu’s statement on Palestinian sovereignty appears to run counter to what he told President Biden a day earlier, CNN reporting suggests. Netanyahu had told Biden in a private phone call on Friday that he was not foreclosing the possibility of a Palestinian state in any form, a personal familiar with the conversation told CNN.

Self-propelled artillery Howitzers roll in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on January 19. - Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Self-propelled artillery Howitzers roll in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on January 19. - Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Biden administration officials have recently been engaged in discussions about a future demilitarized Palestinian state, an idea the US president finds “intriguing,” the source said.

Following the phone call, their first in weeks, Biden told reporters he believed Netanyahu could ultimately be convinced of some kind of two-state solution. “There are a number of types of two-state solutions,” he said.

“There’s a number of countries that are members of the UN that are still – don’t have their own military; a number of states that have limitations, and so I think there’s ways in which this can work,” Biden added.

But the day after Biden spoke, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement: “In his conversation with President Biden, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his policy that after Hamas is destroyed Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”

Biden and Netanyahu remain publicly at odds over the question of what will happen to Gaza once the Israel-Hamas war concludes, despite intense American efforts over the past several months to engage officials in Israel and the wider region on a plan they hope can finally resolve the decades-long conflict.

The two-state solution has been the goal of the international community for decades, dating back to the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and many nations say that it is the only way out of the conflict.

President Joe Biden takes questions from members of the press at the White House on January 18. - Samuel Corum/Getty Images
President Joe Biden takes questions from members of the press at the White House on January 18. - Samuel Corum/Getty Images

It remains an open question how post-war Gaza will be governed but Netanyahu has had long-standing objections to a two-state solution.

And while Netanyahu’s stance is contentious internationally, he faces pressure from more right-wing members of his cabinet who have caused outrage with their suggestions on what should happen to people living in Gaza.

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has championed the idea of a Palestinian exodus from Gaza. He and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir sparked anger when advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip.

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