Israel rejects allies’ two-state solution and sets date for Rafah ground offensive

Lord Cameron says that UK could recognise a Palestinian state
Lord Cameron says that UK could recognise a Palestinian state - Israeli Government

Israel has formally opposed international efforts to create a two-state solution as a rift with its allies widens.

The government said the international community was trying to “unilaterally” impose the creation of a Palestinian state to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, said this month that Britain could officially recognise a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the US president, has continued to push for a two-state solution.

It has become a key plank of Mr Biden’s policy in the region, which also includes a normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia and confronting Iran and its proxies.

Ultra-nationalist segments of the Israeli cabinet have been pushing for the government to pre-empt any direct or indirect recognition of Palestinian statehood by its allies.

After a cabinet meeting yesterday, the government said any recognition of Palestinian statehood would reward “terrorism” and should only come through direct negotiations with Israel.

“Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the Oct 7 massacre will grant a huge, unprecedented reward to terrorism and prevent any future peace accord,” it said.

US ambassador dismisses unilateral action

On Sunday, the Times of Israel reported that the US ambassador to Israel dismissed the idea that the US could recognise a Palestinian state without the consent of Israel.

“We have never said there should be a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” said Jack Lew.

The vote by the Israeli cabinet comes as international pressure grows to negotiate a solution to the Middle East conflict with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel.

As Israel’s military operation in Gaza has progressed, there has been mounting frustration from its allies over its execution.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated much of Gaza and forced nearly all of its inhabitants from their homes. Palestinian health authorities say 28,985 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

People transport a young injured Palestinian to hospital after an Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza
People transport a young injured Palestinian to hospital after an Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza - Anadolu

More than half of Gaza’s population has been pushed into Rafah, which Israel plans to storm despite strong opposition from Britain and the US.

Retired general Benny Gantz, who is part of Mr Netanyahu’s three-member War Cabinet, on Sunday threatened to invade Rafah if remaining Israeli hostages were not freed by Ramadan, which is set to begin on March 10.

“If by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Mr Gantz told a conference of Jewish American leaders.

On Sunday, Israeli planes carried out attacks on two areas in Rafah, including an empty building near the border with Egypt, local residents and Hamas media officials said.

The second of the two strikes hit an open space where displaced people were sheltering, killing six people, according to local medics.

In Khan Younis, Nasser Hospital, which has become the latest focal point of the fighting, was put completely out of service on Sunday, the UN said.

“It’s gone completely out of service. There are only four medical teams – 25 staff – currently caring for patients inside the facility,” said Ashraf al-Qidra, a Gaza health ministry spokesman.

Nasser Hospital used to be the largest functioning hospital in Gaza. Israeli troops raided it on Thursday, detaining a number of suspects, after several days of intense bombardment.

The World Health Organization urged Israel to grant its staff access to the hospital, where it said Israel’s week-long siege and raids had stopped them from helping patients.

“Both yesterday and the day before, the WHO team was not permitted to enter the hospital to assess the conditions of the patients and critical medical needs, despite reaching the hospital compound to deliver fuel,” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Despite the heavy loss of civilian life in Gaza, the United States signalled on Sunday it would veto an upcoming vote in the 15-member UN Security Council demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.