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10 Mar, 2024 20:49

Netanyahu hits back at Biden

The Israeli leader has vowed to assault the Palestinian city of Rafah against the direct wishes of the US president
Netanyahu hits back at Biden

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that his maximalist war aims are supported by “the overwhelming majority” of the country's citizens, and that US President Joe Biden was “wrong” to suggest that West Jerusalem's plan for Gaza is “hurting Israel.”

With the death toll from the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) Gaza operation passing 31,000, Biden told MSNBC on Saturday that Netanyahu should “pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost” in the Palestinian enclave. Biden went on to say that Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than he’s helping,” and that a planned Israeli invasion of Rafah – a city in the south of the strip where more than a million Gazans have sought refuge – would be a “red line” for Washington.

“I don’t know exactly what the president meant,” Netanyahu told German tabloid Bild on Sunday, “but if he meant…that I’m pursuing private policies against the wish of the majority of Israelis and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he is wrong on both counts.”

“They are policies supported by the overwhelming majority of Israelis,” Netanyahu continued. “[Israelis] support the action that we are taking to destroy the remaining terrorist battalions of Hamas. They say that once we destroy Hamas, the last thing we should do is put in charge of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority.”

“They also support my position that says that we should resoundingly reject the attempt to ram down our throats a Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu has promised to continue the war in Gaza until Israel wins a “total victory” over Hamas. He has also said that Israel will have “full security control” over the “entire area west of Jordan,” a statement that implies a return to Israeli occupation of Gaza and precludes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

While Netanyahu is an unpopular figure in Israel, these policies have broad public support. According to a recent poll conducted by the Israel Hayom newspaper, 81% of respondents agreed that “military pressure should be applied to Hamas” until its leaders agree to release the roughly 100 Israeli hostages still in its captivity, while a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute last month found that 63% of Israelis oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

Some 68% of Jewish respondents to the poll said that they oppose the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, something that Biden has repeatedly called on Netanyahu to guarantee.

In a further slight to Biden, Netanyahu told Bild that he intends to defy the US and push his forces into Rafah. With more than a million displaced Palestinians sheltering in the city, the UN has warned that an Israeli assault “could lead to a slaughter” of civilians.

“We’ll go there,” Netanyahu said. “We’re not going to leave. You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7 doesn’t happen again. Never happens again.”

Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages back to Gaza. Netanyahu responded by declaring war on the Palestinian militant group and imposing a near-total siege on the enclave. In just over five months of fighting, Israeli forces have killed more than 31,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

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