Escalating rhetoric rejects two-state solution, prompts backlash
Fresh off an intense 27-day war with Hamas in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his refusal to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, further straining his relationship with President Joe Biden.
In a dramatic interview, Netanyahu stated “there is no possibility for a Palestinian state to be established,” rejecting long-standing US policy and the concept of a two-state solution. His inflammatory comments prompted outrage from the White House and European allies, who warned that rejecting Palestinian statehood would erode Israel’s security in the long run.
- Netanyahu tells Biden administration he opposes any Palestinian state in postwar scenario
- White House pushes back, says no way to ensure Israel’s security without Palestinian state
- 15 Jewish House Democrats blast Netanyahu, say commitment to two states is “unwavering”
- European leaders warn viability of two-state solution “fading by the day”
- UN and human rights groups decry ongoing dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza
‘From the River to the Sea’: Netanyahu Rules Out Statehood
In his first call with President Biden since the outbreak of fighting in late April, an unrepentant Netanyahu was unequivocal about his vision for postwar Gaza, stating: “there is no possibility for a Palestinian state to be established” and that Israel must maintain enduring security control west of the Jordan River.
His reference to “from the river to the sea” was seen as an embrace of the extreme view that no Palestinian state should ever emerge between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.
A defiant Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12 TV: “I told Biden that I oppose a Palestinian state…Israel must guarantee security in the entire area west of the Jordan River.”
White House Pushes Back
In a rare public rebuke of Netanyahu’s stance, President Biden forcefully restated his administration’s commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, seen as the only path to sustainably resolving the decades-old conflict.
Biden spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that while the US and Israel share an “unbreakable bond”, the president believes Palestinian statehood is essential for Israel’s security and democracy.
“There is no way to ensure Israel’s future security and democracy without an independent Palestinian state existing side by side in peace,” Psaki stated.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned US-Israel relations face immense strain if Netanyahu continues to balk at two states. Senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed Netanyahu’s vision as “not viable”.
Jewish Democrats Denounce Netanyahu
In a sternly worded letter, 15 Jewish members of Congress pushed back on Netanyahu’s “rejection of the Palestinian right to statehood”, asserting this makes the achievement of sustainable peace significantly more difficult.
“Our commitment to a two-state solution is unwavering,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Jared Huffman, wrote.
They expressed fear that Netanyahu’s stance, emerging after years of de-facto annexation in the West Bank, sets the stage for “de jure annexation”, permanent occupation and formal apartheid.
|Lawmakers Denouncing Netanyahu’s Stance
|Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
|Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
|Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
|Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)
Key European allies delivered public criticism of Netanyahu’s position and voiced strong support for reviving peace talks on the basis of two sovereign states.
“The two-state solution is fading by the day,” warned EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who pledged to redouble European efforts to preserve viability of Palestinian statehood within pre-1967 borders.
In a call with Netanyahu, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak underscored Britain’s steadfast commitment to the “long-standing parameters of a two-state solution”. However, Sunak faces domestic pressure to adopt a tougher line.
Dire Humanitarian Crisis
As the war of words plays out on the world stage, the situation on the ground in Gaza is growing increasingly dire. Israel’s devastating offensive killed over 250 Palestinians, including at least 129 civilians and 66 children.
The UN warns conditions in the densely populated territory are “horrific”, with gas, water and electricity yet to be fully restored weeks after the ceasefire. Key infrastructure lies in ruins. The bombing campaign set back Gaza’s slow recovery from past wars by at least 15 years, per UN estimates.
Over 75,000 Palestinians remain displaced with uncertainty if Israel will lift its 15-year blockade of the embattled enclave.
Netanyahu’s controversial stance throws US efforts to stabilize Gaza into question, especially plans to link reconstruction efforts to demilitarization of Hamas. It remains unclear if Israel will greenlight delivery of Qatari aid needed to pay public sector salaries.
There is growing belief Netanyahu timed his rejection of Palestinian statehood to rally hardline support ahead of March elections. However, his remarks may backfire by galvanizing opposition determined to block his re-election.
If Netanyahu secures another term, his uncompromising position further reduces any remaining hope of reviving moribund peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, while emboldening critics charging Israel with de-facto annexation.
With tensions still simmering after the bloody conflict, experts warn Netanyahu’s incendiary rhetoric raises the risk of another round of violence poised to inflict more suffering on both Israelis and Palestinians.
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