US President Joe Biden called Wednesday for world leaders to develop plans for a “path toward peace” including two-state solution when the Israel-Hamas war is over.
Biden also said during a visit by the Australian prime minister that while Israel has the right to respond to the October 7 Hamas attack it must do everything it can to protect civilians.
But as international pressure mounts for a ceasefire, Biden added that he “did not demand” that Israel delay a ground invasion of Gaza, which Israel has been pounding since the attacks.
“When this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next. And in our view that has to be a two-state solution” with independent Israeli and Palestinian states, Biden said at the start of his joint press conference with Anthony Albanese.
“It means a concentrated effort for all the parties — Israelis, Palestinians, regional partners, global leaders — to put us on a path toward peace.”
Biden’s comments were his most explicit yet on what might come after the conflict that has killed thousands of civilians on both sides, caused a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and raised fears of a regional conflagration.
The US president backed up the message in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, the White House said.
Biden “noted the importance of focusing on what comes after this crisis to include a pathway for a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” it said in a statement.
During the press conference, Biden accused Hamas of “hiding behind” Palestinian civilians, as Israel bombards the territory, but said Israel must follow the “laws of war.”
“Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians. It’s difficult,” he said.
Biden also called for an immediate end to Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.
“That’s pouring gasoline on the fire,” he said. “They’re attacking Palestinians in places that they’re entitled, and… it has to stop now.”
Israel has been bombarding Gaza since October 7 when Hamas gunmen poured across the border, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 222 others, officials say, in the worst attack in Israel’s history.
So far more than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, in the Israeli retaliatory strikes, according to the Hamas-ruled health ministry in Gaza.
Biden however cast doubt on civilian casualty figures put forward by the Palestinians.
“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s a price of waging war,” he said.
“But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
US media have meanwhile reported that Biden has pushed Netanyahu to hold off on a ground invasion of Gaza while Hamas still holds hostages, but Biden denied it.
“What I have indicated to him is that if that’s possible to get these folks out safely, that’s what he should do. It’s their decision,” Biden said.
“But I did not demand it. I put it out to him, if it’s real, it should be done.”