JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he “will not compromise on full Israeli control” over Gaza and that “this is contrary to a Palestinian state,” rejecting US President Biden’s suggestion that creative solutions could bridge wide gaps between the leaders’ views on Palestinian statehood.
In a sign of the pressures Netanyahu’s government faces at home, thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv calling for new elections, and others demonstrated outside the prime minister’s house, joining families of the more than 100 remaining hostages held by Hamas and other militants. They fear that Israel’s military activity further endangers hostages’ lives.
Netanyahu is also under heat to appease members of his right-wing ruling coalition by intensifying the war against Hamas, which governs Gaza, while contending with calls for restraint from the United States, its closest ally.
Netanyahu posted his statement on social media a day after his first conversation with Biden in nearly a month. Discussing his administration's position Friday, Biden said “there are a number of types of two-state solutions" and, asked if a two-state solution was impossible with Netanyahu in office, Biden replied, “No, it’s not.”
After Netanyahu's statement, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the United States to go further. "It is time for the United States to recognize the state of Palestine, not just talk about a two-state solution,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.” Speaking in Uganda, he said the refusal would “indefinitely prolong” the conflict.
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.
Meanwhile the father of an American teen killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank railed against Washington’s military support for Israel, as hundreds of mourners buried the 17-year-old in the family’s ancestral Palestinian village Saturday.
The death of Tawfiq Ajaq on Friday drew an immediate expression of concern from the White House and a pledge from Israeli police to investigate.
It was the latest fatal shooting in the West Bank, where nearly 370 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza more than three months ago. The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed concern about violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in recent months.
During Saturday’s funeral, the teen’s father criticized the longstanding US support for Israel. “They are killer machines,” he said of Israeli forces. “They are using our tax dollars in the US to support the weapons to kill our own children.”
Tawfiq Ajaq was born and raised in Gretna, La., near New Orleans, relatives said. His parents brought him and his four siblings to the village of Al-Mazra’a Ash-Sharqiya last year so they could reconnect with Palestinian culture.
On Saturday, crowds of Palestinians pulsed through village streets, following men who held aloft a stretcher with the teen’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag.
Hafez Ajaq implored Americans to “see with their own eyes” the ongoing violence in the West Bank.
Also on Saturday, the protest outside Netanyahu’s home in the coastal town of Caesarea grew, with police pushing a few attendees away, sparking arguments.
“We can’t take it anymore. We’ve been told to sit quiet, let the government do its job. Well, it’s not bringing us any result for the last two months,” said Yuval Bar On, whose father-in-law, Keith Siegel, is among the hostages.
The protest began Friday when the father of a 28-year-old held by Hamas began what he called a hunger strike. Eli Shtivi pledged to eat only a quarter of a pita a day — the amount some hostages reportedly receive some days — until the prime minister agrees to meet with him.
At the Tel Aviv protest, former hostage Chen Goldstein-Almog told the crowd that “if we, as a society, as a state, don’t do everything, I mean everything, to return the abductees, the living and the dead, we have no right to exist, as a state and as a society.”
The Israeli military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the military was not carrying out attacks in areas where it knows or assumes there are hostages and the army works “in all possible ways to bring them home.”
Dozens of anti-war protesters also gathered in the Israeli city of Haifa, carrying signs reading “Stop genocide” and scuffling with police who tried to confiscate the placards. Police made one arrest.