US President Joe Biden says a two-state solution is the only answer to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as he reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security.
Speaking at a White House news conference on Friday (local time), Mr Biden said he is praying the ceasefire between Israelis and Hamas will hold, and pledged to build a major package with other countries to help rebuild Gaza.
“There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all. But I’ll tell you what there is a shift in. The shift is that we still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer. The only answer,” he said.
Mr Biden, whose administration worked behind the scenes for days to reach a truce, said aid to the region would be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority – Hamas’s Western-backed rival in the occupied West Bank – to ensure Hamas was not able to restock its military arsenal.
Israel and Hamas on Friday ended 11 days of fighting that killed 248 people and wounded 1900. Humanitarian officials say the damage to Gaza will take years to rebuild at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.
Mr Biden called for an end to inter-communal fighting by extremists on both sides, and said it was imperative to ensure security for Palestinians in the West Bank and help the people of Gaza.
He said he would also insist that Israeli citizens – both Arabs and Jews – must be treated equally.
Mr Biden said Palestinians should also recognise the right of Israel to exist.
“Let’s get something straight here: until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace,” Biden told reporters at a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Mr Biden declined to discuss his recent discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but said he believed the Israeli leader would maintain the ceasefire.
“I’m praying this ceasefire will hold. I take Bibi Netanyahu – when he gives me his word – I take him at his word. He’s never broken his word to me,” Mr Biden said.