US President Joe Biden has warned his close ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, against nursing any plans to reoccupy Gaza. In an interview aired on Sunday, he said if Israel were to occupy Gaza, it would be a big mistake. "I think it'd be a big mistake," Biden told 60 Minutes on CBS in a conversation aired Sunday night. "Look, my view is Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas dont represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza yet again."
"But taking out the extremists," he added, "is a necessary requirement." So even as he opposed plans to occupy Gaza, Biden endorsed the goal of destroying Hamas, an organisation whose founding covenant embraces "killing the Jews" and wiping out Israel. "Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas. Hamas is a bunch of cowards. They are hiding behind the civilians," he said.
"Hamas must be eliminated"
However, Biden was confident that Israel will act as per the rules of war. "There are standards that democratic institutions and countries go by." Asked if he agreed that Hamas must be eliminated entirely, Biden said, "Yes, I do. But there needs to be a Palestinian Authority. There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state."
After the deadliest attack on Israel in decades, leaders in Tel Aviv have argued that they cannot simply respond with the usual airstrikes, and they have resolved to crush Hamas once and for all. Netanyahu has been playing to the growing anger in Israel, but there is a lurking fear that he may overplay his hand. Israels new emergency wartime government held its first formal meeting amid a total breakdown of trust between the citizens and the state. "We will take Hamas apart," Netanyahu reportedly told the meeting. Defence analysts say that while Netanyahus plan to crush Hamas politically and physically has some justification, any move to reoccupy Gaza comes with dangers.
The area will then be a festering wound and continue to simmer, attracting other players in the region notably Iran, Hezbollah and Lebanon. The president's warning to Israel came as he was considering whether to visit Israel in the coming days to demonstrate solidarity with Israelis still reeling from the Hamas attack. Netanyahu had extended the invitation to the president over the weekend, according to an administration official, confirming a report on Israeli television, but Biden has not decided yet whether to go at this time.
Gaza's political history from 2005
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas won elections the next year. The group seized complete control of the enclave and pushed out more moderate Palestinian leaders like those running the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Over the past 18 years, Hamas and its more radical counterparts have from time to time staged attacks on Israel, prompting several brief wars. Israeli forces, which blockade Gaza, re-entered the territory on the ground in 2009 and 2014 but opted not to stay in both.
Invasion Conundrum: Hamas Is Holding 199 Hostages, Not 150
One of the question hovering over an Israeli ground invasion is the Israeli acknowledgment that at least 199 people had been taken hostage by Hamas during its October 7 attack; this is much higher a number than the initial estimate of 150 hostages offered by one senior Israeli military official last week. The captives, it is believed, are being held in Gaza, where Hamas operates an extensive network of tunnels and safe houses.cases.