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Biden: Israel losing world support, must embrace two-state solution

“This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” the U.S. president said of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the White House Rose Garden on Oct. 11, 2023. Credit: Oliver Contreras/official White House photo.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the White House Rose Garden on Oct. 11, 2023. Credit: Oliver Contreras/official White House photo.

Speaking at a fundraising event on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said that Israel was losing the world’s support in its war against Hamas, and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to “change” and embrace the two-state solution.

“This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history,” said Biden, adding that the government “doesn’t want a two-state solution.”

“I think he has to change and—with this government. This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden said, per a White House transcript. 

At first, a White House pool report quoted the president as saying that Netanyahu “‘has to strengthen and change’ the Israeli government to find a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” 

Shortly thereafter, the pool reporter—whose prior characterization had begun to circulate on social media—updated the quote. “Referring to Netanyahu, President Biden said, ‘I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.’”

Per the White House transcript, Biden spoke at some length about Israel. Below is the end of his speech:

“But it takes me to my concluding point about Israel and about all freedoms around the world. Israel—it’s an existential threat to Israel—its very existence. Israel has a tough decision to make. Bibi has got a tough decision to make. There’s no question about the need to take on Hamas. There’s no question about that. None. Zero. They have every right.

Bibi and I talk a lot. I’ve known him for 50 years. Some of you know he has a picture on his desk—at least when I’m there, he has it on it. (Laughter.) Eight-and-a-half by 11, with a picture of—where I wrote, ‘Bibi … ’—when we were both young men, he was at the embassy here and I was a senator. I said, ‘Bibi, I love you, but I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.’ (Laughter.) That remains to be the case. (Laughter.)

He’s a good friend, but I think he has to change and—with this government. This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.

You know, [Israeli National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir is not what you would call someone who—this is the most conservative government in Israel’s history—the most conservative. I’ve known every, every, every single head of state in Israel since Golda Meir. And I’ve known them because I’ve spent time with them many times.

And this is a different group. Ben-Gvir and company and the new folks, they—they don’t want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution. They not only want to have re—retribution, which they should for what the Palestinian—Hamas did, but against all Palestinians. They don’t want a two-state solution. They don’t want any—anything having to with the—the Palestinians.

Folks, the Palestinians have been not governed well at all. A lot has happened that’s very negative.

But I spent an awful—an awful lot of time with the Arab countries. Everyone from Saudi —without going into too much detail because it would be inappropriate—from Saudi Arabia to a number of other states, they want to normalize relations.

At the G20 meeting with all the 20 major nations in the world, I got a resolution passed that no one thought could happen, saying we’re going to build a railroad from the middle of India all the way up to England and a pipeline across the Mediterranean to unite the countries. And the train is going to go—literally, not figuratively—from—from India into Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia into—to Jordan, Jordan to Israel, Israel, et cetera.

Because there—we have an opportunity to begin to unite the region—unite the region. And they still want to do it. But we have to make sure that—that Bibi understands that he’s got to make some moves to strengthen PLA [PA]—strengthen it, change it, move it. You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future. And that’s going to be the hard part.

But in the meantime, we’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel in the process. Not a single thing.

But, folks, there’s a lot to do—a lot to do. We’re going to have to be—as strong supporters of Israel, we’re going to have to be honest about what we’re doing and what the goal is. The goal is Israel’s security. And if Israel—Israel’s sec—if there were no—many of you heard me say over the years: Were there not an Israel, we’d have to invent one—we’d have to invent one.

I believe, without Israel as a freestanding state, not a Jew in the world is safe—not a Jew in the world is safe. It’s up to what happens at the moment.

And so, we got a lot of work to do, but we’re not going to—in the meantime, none of it is going to walk away from providing Israel what they need to defend themselves and to finish the job against—against Hamas.

And, folks, look, if you think about it, one of the things that Bibi understands, I think, now—but I’m not sure Ben-Gvir and his War Cabinet do, who I’ve spoken to several times—is that Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting it. But they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.

It was pointed out to me—I’m being very blunt with you all—it was pointed out to me that—by Bibi—that ‘Well, you carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died.’

I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War Two to see to it that it didn’t happen again—it didn’t happen again. Don’t make the same mistakes we made at 9/11. There was no reason why we had to be in a war in Afghanistan at 9/11. There was no reason why we had to do some of the things we did.’

So, those of you who have family back in Israel, you saw what happened when Bibi tried to change the Supreme Court. Thousands of IDF soldiers said, ‘We’re out. We’re not going to participate. We’re not going to support the military.’

That wasn’t any outside influence. That came from within Israel.

So, folks, there’s a lot to do—a whole lot to do.

First and foremost, do everything in our power to hold Hamas accountable—every single thing in our power. They’re animals. They’re animals. They exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done of late that I—in memory.

But, secondly, we have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of option—an option of a two-state solution, because absent that—(applause)—(inaudible). It’s probably more than you wanted to hear, but—(laughter).”

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