US President Joe Biden has said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about possible solutions for creation of an independent Palestinian state, suggesting one path could involve a non-militarised government.
Mr Biden’s call with Netanyahu was the first in nearly a month, US officials said, noting the discussions focused on Israel’s ongoing strikes in Gaza.
White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Mr Biden had been trying to schedule the call “for quite a bit of time” and denied it came in response to Netanyahu’s comments saying he objected to Palestinian statehood that did not guarantee Israel’s security.
Asked if a two-state solution was impossible while Netanyahu was still in office, Mr Biden said, “No, it’s not.”
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with US mayors, Mr Biden said Mr Netanyahu was not opposed to all two-state solutions, and there were a number of possible solutions, noting that some United Nations members do not have military forces.
Mr Biden was asked if he would reconsider conditions on Israel aid given Mr Netanyahu’s comments rejecting a two-state solution.
“I think we’ll be able to work something out, I think there’s ways in which this could work,” he said.
Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu also discussed efforts to secure the remaining hostages held by Hamas, and Israel’s shift to more “targeted” operations in Gaza to allow more humanitarian assistance to come through, US officials said.
Mr Biden has been pressuring Israel to reduce Palestinian deaths even as he has maintained his strong support of Israel in its war against Hamas.
However the two men do not see eye-to-eye on Palestinians having a state, a solution Mr Biden has advocated to achieve long-term peace.
“The president also discussed his vision for a more durable peace and security for Israel fully integrated within the region and a two state-solution with Israel’s security guaranteed,” White House officials said in a statement about their call.
Mr Netanyahu had said in a press conference that he told the US he objected to any Palestinian statehood that did not guarantee Israel’s security. “Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River. That’s a necessary condition,” he said.
Mr Biden’s call came as Red Crescent officials accused Israel of firing on a hospital in Khan Younis, the main city in the southern part of Gaza.
Israel launched a major new advance in Khan Younis this week to capture the city, which it says is now the primary base of Hamas fighters who attacked Israeli towns on 7 October, killing 1,200 and precipitating a war that has devastated Gaza.
The Gaza health ministry said 142 Palestinians had been killed and 278 injured in Gaza over the past 24 hours, raising the death toll from more than three months of war to 24,762.
Asked about a request by Mexico and Chile for the International Criminal Court to investigate potential crimes against civilians in Gaza, Mr Kirby said the United States was still gathering more information about what that would entail.
“We don’t have any indications that there’s deliberate efforts to commit war crimes by the Israeli Defence Forces” Mr Kirby said.
Mr Kirby also expressed concern about reports from Palestinian health officials who said a 17-year-old Palestinian-American teenager was killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank.
“We’re seriously concerned about these reports,” Mr Kirby said. “We’re going to be in constant touch with counterparts in the region to get more information”.