Netanyahu Rebuffs U.S. Calls to Start Working Toward Palestinian Statehood

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday appeared to rule out a postwar peace process that would lead to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, rebuffing calls from the United States to start working toward that ultimate goal.

“In any arrangement in the foreseeable future — with an arrangement or without one — Israel must have security control over all the territory west of the Jordan,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference, referring to an area including occupied territory that Palestinians hope will one day become their independent state. “This clashes with the idea of sovereignty. What can you do?”

The Biden administration and the Israeli government have diverged sharply over how Gaza will be governed when the fighting ends. President Biden and his top diplomat, Antony J. Blinken, have urged Israeli officials to move toward the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state. Mr. Biden has suggested that a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, run a post-Hamas Gaza as an interim step toward that goal.

But Israeli officials have repeatedly dismissed such calls, saying they are focused on the war in Gaza. On Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu told reporters he had rebuffed the latest exhortations.

“I told this truth to our friends, the Americans, and I also blocked the attempt to impose a reality that would harm Israel’s security,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “The prime minister needs to be able to say no, even to our best friends.”

The Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, said on Thursday that Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack — which left 1,200 dead in Israel, according to Israeli officials — had left most Israelis more concerned about their immediate security than long-term peace.

“If you ask an average Israeli now about his or her mental state, nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements because everybody wants to know: ‘Can we be promised real safety in the future?’” Mr. Herzog said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Every Israeli wants to know that he will not be attacked in the same way from north or south, or east.”

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, reiterated the Biden administration’s position at a news briefing Thursday, saying that there is “no way” to rebuild Gaza, provide lasting security there or establish governance there without establishing a Palestinian state. The United States had made this position clear to top Israeli officials in direct conversations “and now a public conversation as well.”

Speaking about the war, Mr. Netanyahu vowed not to compromise on Israel’s goal of “total victory” over Hamas and urged the public to prepare for long months of fighting. And asked about Israel’s efforts to counter Iran, he contested the premise that Israel was battling only Iran’s proxies and not the country itself: “Who told you we weren’t attacking Iran? We’re attacking!”

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