Biden and Netanyahu Navigate Differences on Palestinian Statehood

Biden and Netanyahu Navigate Differences on Palestinian Statehood

WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have finally engaged in a conversation after an almost four-week hiatus, highlighting the growing differences over the potential pathway to Palestinian statehood. The leaders, who initially received support despite global criticism of civilian casualties in Gaza, now face strains as Netanyahu rejects Biden's calls for Palestinian sovereignty, hindering progress towards a two-state solution.

Their latest phone call, the first since December 23, follows Netanyahu's clear refusal to support a Palestinian state in any postwar plan. Biden, however, reiterated his commitment to assisting the Palestinians in their pursuit of statehood, emphasizing the importance of addressing their aspirations in post-conflict Gaza.

The once frequent communication between Biden and Netanyahu has slowed, with the leaders' relationship strained by political considerations and domestic pressures. Biden, a center-left Democrat, faces criticism for not pressuring Israel more, while Netanyahu, leading a conservative government, deals with internal challenges and corruption charges.

The tension has intensified as the death toll in Gaza rises, and there is impatience in Israel over the lack of progress in freeing hostages held by militants. Democratic lawmakers, including Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy, warn that Netanyahu's stance on statehood could complicate negotiations on a spending package that includes military aid for Israel.

Biden's frustration with Netanyahu has become evident in recent calls, although publicly, he maintains support for Israel. Despite the strained relationship, Biden believes in the possibility of winning over Netanyahu, dismissing the notion that a two-state solution is impossible while Netanyahu is in office.

As the leaders navigate their differences, key discussions are delegated to aides Ron Dermer and Jake Sullivan. The Biden administration's push for engagement involves senior officials like Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, who try to navigate the challenging dialogue with Israel.

Netanyahu's rejection of a two-state solution aligns with his political stance, emphasizing security concerns over the potential launchpad for attacks on Israel. The Biden administration remains hopeful that Israel could eventually accept a Palestinian state with robust security guarantees.

The complex relationship between Biden and Netanyahu, marked by peaks and valleys over the years, is further complicated by political considerations and the upcoming presidential election. While the path to a two-state solution remains elusive, Biden's team emphasizes a new dynamic in the Middle East, envisioning Israel's integration into the region if it commits to a Palestinian state. Despite the challenges, Biden refrains from slamming the door on Netanyahu, recognizing the intersection between policy and politics.

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