Saturday, July 20

Widening crisis in the Middle East: Iran accuses Israel of killing 4 military advisers in Syria

Widening crisis in the Middle East: Iran accuses Israel of killing 4 military advisers in Syria

President Biden on Friday pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the creation of a Palestinian state after the end of the war in Gaza and discussed options that would limit Palestinian sovereignty to make the prospect more acceptable to Israel.

Hoping to overcome Mr. Netanyahu’s fierce resistance, Mr. Biden raised the possibility of a disarmed Palestinian nation that would not threaten Israel’s security. Although there was no sign that Mr. Netanyahu would tone down his opposition, which is popular within his fragile right-wing political coalition, Mr. Biden said he was optimistic that consensus could be reached.

“There are a number of types of two-state solutions,” the president told reporters at the White House several hours after the call, the first in nearly a month amid war-related tension. “A number of UN member countries still do not have their own army. “Number of states that have limits.” He added: “And so I think there are ways in which it could work.”

Asked what Mr. Netanyahu was open to, Mr. Biden said: “I’ll let you know.” ” But he rejected the idea that a so-called two-state solution is impossible while Mr. Netanyahu is in power – “no, that’s not the case” – and he dismissed the idea of impose conditions on American security assistance to Israel. if the Prime Minister continues to resist.

“I think we can find a solution,” Mr. Biden said.

The last time the two leaders spoke was on December 23, in a call that was later described as particularly tense. The latest call came a day after Mr. Netanyahu told reporters in Israel that he had rebuffed Mr. Biden’s efforts to pressure him for a two-state solution. Mr Netanyahu said Israel must maintain security control “over all territory west of the Jordan River”, referring to both Gaza and the West Bank, despite US views. “The prime minister must be able to say no, even to our best friends,” Mr. Netanyahu told reporters.

Mr Biden argued that the creation of a Palestinian state guaranteeing Israel’s security is the only viable long-term solution to a decades-long conflict, repeating a position taken by most US presidents and European leaders in recent history. Meanwhile, Mr Biden suggested that a “revitalized” version of the Palestinian Authority, which partially governs the West Bank, would take control of Gaza as well once Hamas is ousted from power there – another an idea that Mr Netanyahu has rejected because he considers the authority corrupt and compromised by support for terrorists.

“The president still believes in the promise and the possibility of a two-state solution,” John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters at the White House after the call, which, according to him, lasted 30 to 40 minutes. . . “He recognizes that it’s going to take a lot of work. This will require a lot of leadership, particularly in the region, from both sides of the issue. And the United States is firmly committed to ultimately achieving this outcome. »

Mr. Kirby said the two leaders also discussed hostages held by Hamas, humanitarian aid to Gaza, paying taxes to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and Israel’s shift in military strategy toward more surgical operations. But Mr Kirby revealed no specific new agreements and confirmed that the leaders remained at odds over the prospect of a Palestinian state.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have known each other for decades, and the relationship between the left-wing president and the right-wing prime minister has long been complicated. They clashed last year over Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to strip some power from Israel’s justice system and Mr. Biden’s desire to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran.

After the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack that left 1,200 people dead in Israel, they put aside their differences to embrace each other figuratively and literally. But as Israel’s war against Hamas has devastated much of Gaza, killing more than 24,000 fighters and civilians, the two sides are once again increasingly at odds.

The long interval between calls was itself an indication of friction. In the two and a half months between the Oct. 7 attack and their pre-Christmas conversation, Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu spoke 14 times, or about once every five and a half days. This time it took 27 days to get back in touch.

But Mr. Kirby sought to downplay the discord, calling their clashes honest disagreements between friends. “We won’t agree on everything,” he said. “We said it. Good friends and allies can have these kinds of frank and frank discussions and we do.

He rejected the idea that Mr. Biden was trying to force Mr. Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state. “It’s not about trying to twist someone’s arm or force a change in their thinking,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu has clearly expressed his concerns on this matter. President Biden has made clear his strong belief that a two-state solution remains the right path forward. And we’re going to continue to make that point.

Mr. Kirby cautioned Mr. Netanyahu over his use of language, referring to the prime minister’s statement that Israel must maintain security control over Gaza and the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu, speaking in Hebrew, referred to “all the territory west of the Jordan River,” but some mistranslated it into English as “from the river to the sea,” a formulation that sparked criticism. reviews.

The latter phrase, often used by Palestinians and their supporters, is seen by many supporters of Israel as an anti-Semitic statement advocating the eradication of Israel, which lies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, as do the territories Palestinians. The House censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, in November for using the phrase.

Asked about Mr. Netanyahu’s comment, Mr. Kirby replied: “It’s not a phrase we recommend using because of that context.” »