ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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PM lobbying Likud MKs, saying only he can prevent a Palestinian state in Gaza, West Bank – report

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly met with at least 10 backbenchers in his Likud party over the past week in an effort to ensure their continued support, as the ruling party drops further and further in the polls since the war.

“I am the only one who will prevent a Palestinian state in Gaza and [the West Bank] after the war,” the Kan public broadcaster quotes Netanyahu as having told the lawmakers.

The stance clashes directly with the policy of the Biden administration, which has sought to revive talk of a two-state solution in order to maintain the support of the Arab world, as he continues to offer full-throttled backing of Israel.

Netanyahu reportedly also told the Likud lawmakers that the Biden administration did not want Israel to launch a ground incursion in Gaza and did not want the IDF to enter Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital where a Hamas command center is located underneath. Netanyahu reportedly boasted about having gone against the US wishes in both of those cases.

Two US officials speaking with The Times of Israel made no such indication that the US opposed Israel’s operations in Gaza, as Netanyahu suggested. Rather, Washington pushed for the IDF to ensure the protection of civilians, the officials said, noting that they principally support expanding the ground operation into southern Gaza, so long as civilians are accounted for.

“I have known [US President Joe] Biden for more than 40 years, and know how to speak to the American public,” Kan quotes Netanyahu as having told the Likud backbenchers in individual meetings.

According to an August Pew Research Center poll, 42% of Americans said they have no confidence in Netanyahu, 32% said they have confidence in him and 26% of Americans said they had not heard of the Israeli premier. Views of Netanyahu varied by political ideology, with Republicans more likely to have confidence in him than Democrats. (49% vs. 17%)

One of Netanyahu’s sit-downs was with Likud MK David Bitan, who urged the prime minister to avoid bombastic declarations that have come back to haunt him. Netanyahu had initially declared that Israel would not allow any fuel into Gaza before walking that pledge back earlier this month.

Kan reports that Netanyahu made clear to the fellow faction members that he does not plan to go anywhere after the war.

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