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Netanyahu rebuts report claiming he supports Palestinian state

The Prime Minister's Office denied he had voiced acceptance of the possibility, as reported by CNN.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday refuted a CNN report published earlier that day claiming that he had not ruled out a Palestinian state in the wake of the Gaza war.

“In his conversation last night with President [Joe] Biden, Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated his consistent position for years, which he also expressed at a press conference the day before: After the elimination of Hamas, Israel must remain in full security control of the Gaza Strip to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel—and this conflicts with demands for Palestinian sovereignty,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

In its report, CNN quoted an anonymous source “familiar with the conversation” as saying, “Biden and Netanyahu discussed the possible attributes of a future Palestinian state that would ultimately need to be negotiated,” with the source describing the conversation as “serious” and “detailed.”

It was the first phone call between the two leaders since Dec. 23.

The report sparked sharp criticism from the more right-wing members of Netanyahu’s coalition, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism Party, tweeting on Saturday evening, “There is a broad consensus in Israel against a Palestinian state and the division of the land.”

He added that the U.S. should wake up, as Israel has, to the dangers of false assumptions that led to Oct. 7 and that pushing for a Palestinian state is the same as pushing for the “next massacre.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit Party, tweeted at the same time, “I do deny a Palestinian state. Always!”

Netanyahu has publicly opposed a Palestinian state rising out of the ashes of the Gaza Strip following the destruction of Hamas.

Netanyahu also faced criticism from members of the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration after he said in a Dec. 18 televised address that “Israel must have security control over all the territory west of the Jordan,” meaning Israel within its pre-1967 lines and Judea and Samaria, commonly known as the West Bank.

Fifteen Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Friday in a brief statement, “We strongly disagree with the prime minister,” adding, “A two-state solution is the path forward.”

Signatories included Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Last week, it was reported that Netanyahu had rejected a Saudi offer to normalize relations in exchange for a Palestinian state, NBC News reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dangled the proposal before Netanyahu during an Israel visit on Jan. 9, according to the Biden administration. However, the Israeli leader said he was not prepared for a deal that paved the way for Palestinian statehood.

Biden administration officials have been pushing Palestinian statehood as part of a key requirement for regional peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors after the war in Gaza ends.

Blinken and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan underscored the message at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week.

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