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Netanyahu rejects US calls to wind back Gaza assault

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20 January 2024, The Age & Sydney Morning Herald / AP, Reuters, by Josef Federman

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US calls to scale back Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip and take steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, drawing an immediate rebuke from the White House.

The tense exchange reflected what has become a wide rift between the two allies over the scope of Israel’s war and its plans for the future of the beleaguered Gaza territory.

Earlier this week, the White House announced that it was the ‘‘right time’’ for Israel to lower the intensity of its devastating military offensive in Gaza.

But in a nationally televised news conference, Netanyahu struck a defiant tone, repeatedly saying that Israel would not halt its offensive until it achieved its goals of destroying the Hamas militant group and bringing home all remaining hostages held by it.

He rejected claims by a growing chorus of Israeli critics that those goals were not achievable, vowing to press ahead for many months.

‘‘We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory,’’ he said.

Netanyahu, whose far-right government also opposes Palestinian statehood, said he had told the US that he opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of any post-war scenario.

He said Israel ‘‘must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River’’, which includes the entire West Bank. ‘‘That collides with the idea of sovereignty. What can we do?’’ he said. ‘‘This truth I tell to our American friends, and I put the brakes on the attempt to coerce us to a reality that would endanger the state of Israel.’’

The comments prompted an immediate rebuke from the White House. ‘‘We obviously see it differently,’’ White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

He said President Joe Biden would ‘‘not stop working’’ towards a two-state solution. The term refers to the recognition of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said: ‘‘There is no way to solve their 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.’’

The Palestinians seek Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem for their state. Those areas were captured by Israel in 1967.

Netanyahu said a Palestinian state would become a launching pad for attacks on Israel.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive after an unprecedented crossborder attack by Hamas on October 7 that killed 1200 people, with some 250 others taken hostage. About 130 hostages are believed by Israel to remain in Hamas captivity. The war has stoked tensions across the region, threatening to ignite other conflicts.

Israel’s retaliatory assault, one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history, has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, caused widespread destruction and uprooted more than 80 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million people. The staggering cost of the war has led to increasing calls across the world for a halt to the offensive.

After initially giving Israel wallto-wall support in the early days of the war, the US, Israel’s closest ally, has begun to express misgivings and urged Netanyahu to spell out his vision for post-war Gaza.

The US has said the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, which governs semiautonomous zones in the Israelioccupied West Bank, should be ‘‘revitalised’’ and returned to Gaza. Hamas ousted the authority from Gaza in 2007.

US senator Bernie Sanders also weighed in, saying the sustained Israeli bombardment of Gaza was a ‘‘tragedy for which we, the United States, are complicit’’.

Speaking on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the twostate solution was the best way to protect Israel, unify moderate Arab countries and isolate its archenemy, Iran. Without a ‘‘pathway to a Palestinian state’’ he said, Israel would not ‘‘get genuine security’’.

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Article source: The Age & Sydney Morning Herald / AP, Reuters | Josef Federman | 20 January 2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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