Biden and Netanyahu talk amid differences over Palestinian statehood

Biden and Netanyahu had a phone call today. They discussed about the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The US President Joe Biden and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a phone conversation on Friday about the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been conducting a military offensive against the Hamas militant group since October 7. This was their first talk in almost four weeks, amid speculation of a strained relationship between the two leaders over their divergent views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Neither side released any immediate details about the call, but according to The Times of Israel, the conversation was friendly and lasted for about 40 minutes. The White House said in a brief statement that Biden and Netanyahu discussed “the latest developments in Israel and Gaza” and that a more detailed readout of the call would be issued soon.

The phone call came a day after Netanyahu publicly stated that he had informed the US administration that he was opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the aftermath of the conflict with Hamas, which contradicts the longstanding US policy of supporting a two-state solution.

Netanyahu said that Israel “must have security control over all territory west of the Jordan (River)” and that this was a “necessary condition” that was incompatible with the idea of Palestinian sovereignty. He made these remarks during a visit to a military base near the Gaza border.

The US administration reiterated its position that the creation of a Palestinian state was the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security and stability in the region. US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that the US and Israel “obviously see it differently” on this issue.

He added that the US was committed to working with Israel and other partners to address the humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Gaza, as well as to advance the prospects of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited the Middle East last week, met with Israeli officials and stressed that Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, were willing to support the reconstruction of Gaza and the formation of a future Palestinian government, but only if Israel facilitated the path to a Palestinian state.

Blinken also renewed his call for a “path toward a Palestinian state” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday. He said that without such a path, Israel would not achieve the genuine security it needed.

Netanyahu defended his stance on Thursday, saying that “a prime minister in Israel should be able to say no, even to our best friends, say no when necessary and say yes if possible.” He denied any rift with Biden, whom he has known for decades, and said that they had a “very good” relationship.

US officials also dismissed the reports of a tension between Biden and Netanyahu, when asked about the reason for the long gap between their phone calls in recent weeks. Kirby said earlier this month that Biden and Netanyahu were “two guys who have known each other for a long, long time” and that “they don’t agree on every issue and they wouldn’t be expected to.”

He said that Biden remained “deeply engaged” on the issue of Israel and Gaza and that he was in regular contact with his national security team and other regional leaders.

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