Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he has told the United States that he opposes Washington’s long-standing support for the creation of a Palestinian state as part of any postwar settlement of Israel’s war with Hamas militants.
Officials in Israel’s right-wing government have often expressed opposition to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. But Netanyahu’s statement at a nationally broadcast news conference appeared to be his most definitive on the issue and opened a clear public rift with the U.S., Israel’s key supporter in the war.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby dismissed the Israeli leader’s statement.
“This is not a new comment by Prime Minister Netanyahu. We obviously see it differently,” Kirby said.
As recently as this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told key political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that a “pathway to a Palestinian state” is essential for peace in the Middle East.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Thursday, “There is no way to solve [Israel’s] long-term challenges, to provide lasting security, and there is no way to solve the short-term challenges of rebuilding Gaza and establishing governance in Gaza and providing security for Gaza without the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
At his news conference, Netanyahu said, “In any future arrangement … Israel needs security control of all territory west of the Jordan [River]. This collides with the idea of sovereignty. What can you do?”
Referring to Israel’s relations with the U.S., he added, “The prime minister needs to be capable of saying no to our friends.”
Israel has said it does not plan to reoccupy Gaza at the end of the war with Hamas but has refused to spell out its day-after plans for the territory.
Netanyahu said Israel has destroyed about two-thirds of Hamas’ fighting regiments in the Gaza Strip during three-plus months of war and vowed to continue the war until Israel has achieved “complete victory.”
“There are two stages to the fighting. The first is destroying the Hamas regiments, those are their organized combat frameworks,” Netanyahu said.
“Up until now, 16 or 17 out of 24 [regiments] have been destroyed. After that, there is the [stage] of clearing the territory [of militants]. The first action is usually shorter. The second usually takes longer,” Netanyahu said. “Victory will take many more months, but we are determined to achieve it.”
The U.S. has for weeks pressed the Jewish state to curtail its massive offensive in Gaza to sharply limit the number of civilian deaths in the narrow territory along the Mediterranean Sea.
Israel is trying to erase Hamas’ control of Gaza after the militants killed 1,200 people in Israel in a shock October 7 attack that also allowed Hamas to capture 240 hostages.
Israel’s air and ground military operations in Gaza have leveled large areas of the territory and killed more than 24,400 Palestinians and wounded at least 60,000 others, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Israel said Thursday it carried out attacks targeting militants in the northern and southern Gaza Strip, while Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an Israeli airstrike in Rafah killed 16 people.
The strike in Rafah, located along Gaza’s border with Egypt, struck a home, the health ministry said. Medical personnel said half of the 16 killed were children.
The Israeli military said its forces killed about 40 militants in the Khan Younis area, in southern Gaza, and several more militants during ground and air operations in the northern part of the strip.
Israel also said it carried out its latest airstrikes in southern Lebanon targeting sites of the Hezbollah militant group, a Hamas ally. The Lebanon-Israel border has been the site of frequent cross-border attacks since the start of the war in Gaza.
Qatar said late Wednesday that medicine for hostages held by Hamas had entered Gaza, but it was not clear if the supplies had been distributed.
The delivery was part of a deal brokered by Qatar and France to get medication for 45 hostages who have chronic illnesses, as well as deliveries of medicine and other humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said in a statement Wednesday that the people of Gaza are facing overcrowding in shelters, a lack of sufficient medicine, repeated telecommunications blackouts and soaring prices for the limited commercial goods that are available.
“Everyone I met had a personal story of fear, death, loss, trauma to share. Over the 100 days, the people of Gaza have moved from the sheer shock of losing everything, in some cases every member of their family, to a debilitating struggle to stay alive and protect their loved ones,” Lazzarini said.
The U.N. says 1.9 million people, about 85% of Gaza’s population, have been forced from their homes by the war.