Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu has just rejected the possibility of an independent Palestine.
The Israeli prime minister’s spokesperson said Netanyahu reminded his key ally US president Joe Biden of his stance on this controversial topic in a phone call on Saturday, as the two discussed the ongoing war in Gaza.
A statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office said: “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.”
A few hours before, Biden had shared his take on the same conversation – and said something quite different. He claimed he felt their exchange suggested a two-state solution was possible with Netanyahu still in government.
It was the two leaders’ first conversation since Netanyahu announced in a press conference nearly a month ago that an independent Palestinian state was not likely even once fighting ends in Gaza.
And on Thursday last week, Netanyahu said: “With an accord or without an accord, Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River.
“That’s a necessary condition. It clashes with the principle of sovereignty but what can you do.”
"Palestinians deserve a sovereign state, Israel deserves... the ability to defend itself"
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps says he "doesn't see another solution" to Israel-Gaza conflict other than a two-state solution, rejected by Israeli PM#BBCLauraKhttps://t.co/eFdZeBgMC4pic.twitter.com/oVYnvbNL8H
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 21, 2024
Shortly after Netanyahu’s more recent comments, UK defence secretary Grant Shapps told broadcasters on Sunday that it was “very disappointing”.
However, he added that it was not particularly surprising as that is a message Netanyahu has been sharing throughout his career.
Shapps also said Palestinian “deserve” a sovereign state, while Israel “deserves” to be able to defend itself.
“Unless you pursue a two-state solution, I really don’t see that there is another solution,” he concluded.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told Sky on Sunday that her party has been clear – Netanyahu’s comments are “completely unacceptable”.
She added: “A statehood of a people is not in the gift of its neighbour. It is the right of a people and it is the right of the Palestinian people.”
She said it is “important for us to recognise Palestine and also to work towards a two-state solution”.
Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf – who had family members trapped in Gaza for three weeks at the start of the war – also told the BBC’sSunday with Laura Kuenssberg that he believes “without a shadow of doubt” that people sometimes put a different value on Palestinian lives.
He added: “If you talk to anybody who is Palestinian, you speak to many people in the Muslim community, they feel that the Palestinian blood is very cheap.”
Netanyahu still has the Israeli public’s broad support when it comes the Israel-Hamas war – a poll conducted last month by the Israeli Institute of Democracy shows three-quarters of Jewish Israelis oppose the US call for Israel to a softer stage of the war.
However, other points of tension are starting to emerge within Israel.
On Saturday, protesters in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Caesarea and Kfar Saba all called for Netanyahu to do more when it comes to the release of the remaining hostages. Others called for his resignation.
Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militants killed 1,200 people on Israeli soil on October 7, and took a further 240 people hostage.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza estimates 25,000 have been killed since the Israeli bombardment and siege began.