- By Mark Lowen, in Jerusalem, and Sean Seddon
- BBC News
January 21, 2024, 00:19 GMT
Updated 1 hour ago
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again rejected the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.
His comments came hours after a phone call with US President Joe Biden, after which the US leader suggested that Mr Netanyahu might still accept the idea.
Mr Netanyahu's comments appeared to deepen the public rift with the US.
The US believes a Palestinian state alongside Israel – known as a “two-state solution” – is crucial to long-term stability.
But the White House acknowledged this week that the U.S. and Israeli governments “clearly see things differently.”
Speaking to reporters after the two leaders spoke by phone for the first time in nearly a month, Mr. Biden insisted that a two-state solution was possible even with Mr. Netanyahu in office.
“There are different types of two-state solutions. There are a number of countries that are members of the United Nations and … do not have their own armed forces,” he said.
But on Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu doubled down on the position he has held for most of his political career and reiterated earlier this week.
A statement released by his office said: “In his conversation with President Biden, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his policy that after the destruction of Hamas, Israel must maintain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.” Demand that… “contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”
Also on Saturday, in a post On [River] Jordan,” an area that also includes the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The comments will dampen hopes in some quarters that the Gaza crisis could lead to Israeli and Palestinian leaders resuming diplomatic negotiations and jump-starting the dormant peace process.
Mr Netanyahu's increasing isolation abroad comes alongside continued support for the war at home, coupled with protests over the fate of the estimated 130 hostages still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In its surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, Hamas killed around 1,300 people – mostly civilians – and took 240 hostages.
Thousands of demonstrators, including relatives of those still missing, gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday, calling on Mr Netanyahu to call a ceasefire to let the hostages home.
The demonstrators demanded an agreement with Hamas to release the hostages
Gil Dickmann, whose cousin was captured on October 7, said: “Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we believe you can bring her back. We believe in you.”
“We know that you can sign this deal and bring this victory to all citizens of Israel. Just do it, Bibi. Just do it. Bring the hostages home.”
Israeli forces pushed further into the south of the Gaza Strip, saying they were searching for senior Hamas officials who they believed were hiding in Khan Younis, Gaza's second-largest city.
Israeli forces said they stormed a tunnel in Khan Younis that had been used to hold hostages, although they were not there at the time of the discovery.
While the focus of fighting is now in the south of the Gaza Strip, clashes broke out again around the northern city of Jabalia as Palestinian fighters reportedly advanced while Israel tried to move its soldiers and tanks south.
Nearly three months after Israel began its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, its army – which far outnumbers Hamas in strength and equipment – is still facing significant resistance across the territory.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said on Sunday that 25,105 people had been killed in the territory since October 7. More than 60,000 people were also injured, it said.