On Saturday, January 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared, in opposition to U.S. President Joe Biden, that he does not support a two-state solution. The prime minister has also rejected the United States’ calls to scale back operations in Gaza, as the death toll exceeds 25,000 individuals, majority women and children.
As the war continues, rifts in Israel’s cabinet have emerged. Last week, Israeli war cabinet minister and former military chief Gadi Eisenkot argued the need for a deal with Hamas in order to bring back hostages, diverging from Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s stance that military action is the only avenue for hostage release.
Regional sources report on the international and domestic rifts in Israeli strategy:
In an X (formerly Twitter) post on Saturday, Netanyahu asserted: “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over all the territory west of [the] Jordan [River] – and this runs contrary to a Palestinian state.” According to the Jerusalem Post, the Prime Minister’s Office also stated, “After Hamas is eliminated, Israel must retain full security control of the Gaza Strip to ensure that Gaza won’t pose a threat to Israel, and this conflicts with the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”
Anadolu Ajansi reported that Netanyahu “has told the United States that he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of any postwar scenario.” The source also analyzed that “Netanyahu’s statement seems likely to widen a reportedly already large rift with its traditionally most loyal ally, the United States. US officials have reportedly been at odds with Israel behind the scenes in recent weeks, and the US has long favored a two-state solution for ending the bloodshed and tension in the region.”
In response to Netanyahu’s statement, White House spokesperson John Kirby assured that “President Joe Biden would ‘not stop working’ towards a two-state solution,” further elaborating that “we obviously see it differently,” according to Sky News Arabia.
The United Kingdom also expressed its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu’s post-war objectives. According to Arab News, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told journalists, “I think it’s disappointing actually, to hear that from the Israeli prime minister.”
Meanwhile in Israel, the country’s war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot criticized Netanyahu’s strategy against Hamas and in Gaza. The New Arab explained that Eisenkot called “Netanyahu’s aim of the complete defeat of Hamas unrealistic” and “hint[ed] that the Israeli public is being lied to over the progress of the war.” Eisenkot told Israel’s Channel 12, “Whoever speaks of absolute defeat is not speaking the truth.”
Covered by Al Jazeera, Eisenkot believes that a deal is necessary to bring back the hostages. The minister argued that “it is impossible to bring the hostages back alive in the near future without a deal,” while specifying that “the broader war aims would ‘still be valid’ after any temporary ceasefire.” However, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have maintained that “fighting will continue until Hamas is crushed” and that “only military action can win captives’ release.”
Division is not only present within the Israeli cabinet but is also displayed in its domestic society. Thousands of Israelis participated in demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, and more cities across the country. Haaretz reports that citizens criticized the government’s inability to free hostages, their dismissal of security concerns prior to October 7, and general corruption. The demonstrations “call[ed] for early elections and the ousting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” and “dozens of people gathered outside Netanyahu's residence in Caesarea.”
(Image: U.S. Department of State)