Deepening Middle East crisis US troops in Iraq injured in

Deepening Middle East crisis: US troops in Iraq injured in attack linked to Iran-backed militias – The New York Times

President Biden on Friday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to the creation of a Palestinian state after the end of the Gaza war, raising options that would limit Palestinian sovereignty to make the prospect more palatable to Israel.

Hoping to overcome Mr. Netanyahu's fierce opposition, Mr. Biden raised the possibility of a disarmed Palestinian nation that would not threaten Israel's security. While there were no signs that Mr. Netanyahu would ease his opposition, which is popular with his fragile right-wing political coalition, Mr. Biden expressed optimism that they might yet find a consensus.

“There are different types of two-state solutions,” the president told reporters at the White House a few hours after the call, the first in nearly a month amid tensions over the war. “There are a number of countries that are members of the United Nations and still do not have their own armed forces. Number of states that have restrictions.” He added: “So I think there are ways that 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 was impossible as long as Mr Netanyahu was in power – ” No, it's not” – and he rejected the idea of ​​imposing conditions on American security assistance to Israel if that were the case. The prime minister continues to resist.

“I think we’ll be able to find something,” Mr. Biden said.

A day later, however, Mr. Netanyahu appeared not to have been swayed by Mr. Biden's offer. “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control of the entire area west of the Jordan – and that is incompatible with a Palestinian state,” he said in a post on social media.

The last conversation between the two leaders took place on December 23, in a conversation later described as particularly tense.

Friday's call came a day after Mr. Netanyahu told reporters in Israel that he had rejected Mr. Biden's efforts to push him toward a two-state solution. “The prime minister must be able to say no, even to our best friends,” Netanyahu told reporters.

Mr Biden has argued that the creation of a Palestinian state that guarantees Israel's security is the only viable long-term solution to a conflict that has dragged on for decades, repeating a position taken by most American presidents and European leaders heads of government have represented in recent history. Meanwhile, Mr Biden has suggested that a “revived” version of the Palestinian Authority, which partly governs the West Bank, also take over Gaza once Hamas is removed from power there – another idea that Mr Netanyahu has rejected because he considers the authority to be corrupt and endangered by supporting terrorists.

“The president still believes in the promise and 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 he said lasted 30 to 40 minutes had . “He realizes it will take a lot of work. It will take a lot of leadership – especially in the region, on both sides of the issue. And the United States is committed to achieving that outcome at some point.”

Mr. Kirby said the two leaders also discussed hostages held by Hamas, humanitarian aid to Gaza, releasing tax payments to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and shifting Israel's military strategy toward more surgical strikes. But Mr Kirby did not reveal any specific new agreements and confirmed that leaders remained divided over the prospect of a Palestinian state.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have known each other for decades, and the relationship between the left-leaning president and the right-leaning prime minister has long been complicated. They clashed last year over Mr. Netanyahu's attempt to strip the Israeli judiciary of some of its power and Mr. Biden's push to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran.

After Hamas' terrorist attack in Israel killed 1,200 people on October 7, they put aside their differences and embraced each other, both figuratively and literally. But as Israel's war against Hamas devastated much of the Gaza Strip, reportedly killing more than 24,000 combatants and civilians, the two increasingly came into conflict again.

The long pause between calls alone was an indication of tension. 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, about every five and a half days. This time it took 27 days for me to get in touch again.

But Mr Kirby tried to downplay the discord by describing their arguments as honest disagreements between friends. “We’re not going to agree on everything,” he said. “That's what we said. Good friends and allies can have these open, candid discussions, and that’s what we’re doing.”

He rejected the idea that Mr. Biden was trying to force Mr. Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state. “This is not about twisting someone’s arm or forcing a change in their thinking,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu has clearly expressed his concerns in this regard. President Biden has made clear his strong belief that a two-state solution is still the right path. And we will continue to do that.”

Mr. Kirby warned Mr. Netanyahu about 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 referred to “the entire area west of the Jordan” in Hebrew, but some incorrectly translated it into English as “from the river to the sea,” a phrase that drew criticism.

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

Asked about Mr. Netanyahu's remark, Mr. Kirby said: “It's not a phrase we recommend based on that context.”

Carol Sutherland contributed reporting.

— Peter Baker reports from Washington