Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes any form of Palestinian sovereignty in post-war Gaza, his office said Saturday, appearing to rebuff US President Joe Biden’s suggestion that creative solutions could bridge wide gaps between the two leaders’ views on Palestinian statehood.

In a sign of the pressures Netanyahu’s government faces at home and abroad over the war, a protest outside the prime minister’s home grew as more people joined a group representing families of the more than 100 remaining hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups.

The families are demanding the government take bold steps to free the hostages, fearing that Israel’s military activity in Gaza further endangers their lives.

Netanyahu is also under heat to appease members of his right-wing ruling coalition by intensifying the war against Hamas, which governs Gaza, and must contend with calls for restraint from the United States, its closest ally.

A statement from the prime minister’s office said Netanyahu made clear Friday in his first conversation with Biden in nearly a month that his position on a post-war Gaza hasn’t changed. Netanyahu reiterated that Israel must retain security control over the territory after Hamas is destroyed — “a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty,” the statement said.

Discussing his administration’s position on the matter, Biden on Friday said “there are a number of types of two-state solutions. There are a number of countries that are members of the UN that are still, not have their own militaries.” Asked by a reporter if a two-state solution was impossible with Netanyahu in office, Biden replied, “No, it’s not.” Netanyahu has said Israel must fight until it achieves “complete victory” and Hamas no longer poses a threat, but has not outlined how this will be accomplished.

But a member of Israel’s War Cabinet, former Israeli army chief Gadi Eisenkot, has called a cease-fire the only way to secure the hostages’ release, a comment that implied criticism of Israel’s current strategy.
Critics have accused Netanyahu of preventing a Cabinet-level debate about a post-war scenario for Gaza. They say he is stalling to prevent conflict within his coalition.

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