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Stumbling block - Palestinian state

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly clashed with US President Joe Biden Tuesday night over his claims that Israel was losing world support due to his “conservative” government’s Gaza policies and its National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

“Since the start of the war, I have been leading a diplomatic campaign to block pressure designed to end the war prematurely, and to secure strong support for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a short video message he issued last night.

He pointed to concrete data to make his point, noting that the monthly Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll showed that 82% of Americans surveyed back Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza. “That means that four out of five US citizens support Israel and not Hamas,” Netanyahu said, adding “This will help us continue the campaign until total victory.”

He spoke after Biden appeared on the comedy show “Late Night with Seth Myers” on Monday night, where he joked about his age and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories before turning serious to discuss Israel and Gaza.

'Take advantage of the opportunity'

“Israel has had the overwhelming support of the vast majority of nations,” Biden said. He cautioned, however, that “if it keeps this up with this incredibly conservative government they have with Ben-Gvir and others” then the Jewish state “will lose support from around the world and that is not in Israel’s interest.”

The president noted his long history in relating to Israeli governments. “I have known every major foreign policy leader in Israel since [former prime minister] Golda Meir,” Biden recalled.

He did not return to the issue of Ben-Gvir, but the National Security Minister has antagonized the Biden administration with his views on Jerusalem, Gaza, and the hostage deal.

Biden spoke as the United States is attempting to help broker a deal for the release of the remaining 134 hostages that would lead to a pause in the war and provide a window of opportunity to push forward a Saudi normalization deal with Israel.

Netanyahu and Biden have agreed on the broad parameters of what needs to happen, but have differed on the many details involved, including in particular issues relating to Palestinian statehood. The media have personalized that tension, with reports of negative comments Biden has said about Netanyahu, even though the two men are also well known for a deep friendship that spans over four decades.

One of the key disagreements is over Palestinian statehood, which Biden supports and most of Netanyahu’s government opposes. The prime minister last week pushed forward a modified statement that had the approval of the government and the Knesset, which rejected unilateral Palestinian statehood but allowed for direct negotiations for what it called a “permanent settlement.”

Saudi Arabia has spoken of the importance of Palestinian statehood to any normalization deal.“Saudi Arabia is ready to recognize Israel,” Biden said on Seth Meyers’ show Monday.He underscored his long-standing support for the Jewish state, noting that “you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist. I am a Zionist. Where there is no Israel, there is not a Jew in the world that will be safe.”It is for this reason, Biden said, that it is important to “take advantage of the opportunity to have peace and security for Israelis and also Palestinians, who are being used as pawns by Hamas.“There is a process under way that, if we get that temporary ceasefire, we will be able to move in the direction where we can change the dynamic,”

Biden stated.He explained that the vision did not include the immediate creation of a Palestinian state once the Gaza war were over.What there will be, he said, is a “process to get to a two-state solution and a process to guarantee Israeli security and the independence of Palestinians, but without them being able to invite in another country to provide their defenses.”In the meantime, Biden said, as the war continues, “there are too many innocent people that are being killed.”

Tovah Lazaroff