Pre-October 7 Plan: US Staged for Palestinian Statehood

The Biden administration had intended to present Israel with a series of steps needed for the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the potential normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. “One of the things we had planned and put on the table was a very robust number of steps toward an independent Palestinian state,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Wednesday. This was something “we were actively working on in the lead-up to the October 7” attack by Hamas against southern Israel, he said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been scheduled to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia to discuss a normalization deal between the two countries, but that trip as planned never happened. Instead, Hamas infiltrated southern Israel, murdered more than 1,200 people, and seized some 240 hostages, which immediately froze the Saudi deal. The Biden administration, however, has spoken of the need to launch a new peace process after the Gaza war to create a two-state resolution to the conflict, with the Palestinian state encompassing territory in Gaza and the West Bank. It has supported Israel’s military campaign to oust Hamas from Gaza and has called for a revamped Palestinian Authority to govern the enclave. An Associated Press poll published Wednesday showed that 60% of the Palestinians in the West Bank want the PA to be dissolved. The poll, which had a 4% margin of error, was conducted among 1,231 people from November 22 to December 2. It was conducted amid high Palestinian casualties as a result of the Gaza war. Hamas on Wednesday said more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed, without differentiating between terrorists and civilians, or between those killed in Israeli strikes and those killed in Hamas’s own missiles that fell short. Israel has said at least 7,000 of those killed in Gaza were Hamas combatants. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in Gaza and 82% in the West Bank said they backed Hamas’s October 7 attack, the poll showed. Support for Hamas has decreased and now represents 44% of those in the West Bank and 42% in Gaza. Ninety-two percent of those polled said they wanted PA President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the PA cannot govern Gaza once the war is over, adding that the 1993 Oslo Accord that created it was a mistake. Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely told Sky News she did not support Palestinian statehood. The “Oslo paradigm failed on October 7, and we need to build a new one,” Hotovely said. “The biggest question is what type of Palestinians are on the other side; that is what Israel realized on October 7.” The reason Oslo failed is because “the Palestinians never wanted to have a state next to Israel,” she said. “They wanted to have a state from the River to the Sea.” Hotovely told the interviewer: “Why are you obsessed with a formula that never worked; that created these radical people on the other side.” In Washington on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden called on Netanyahu to change the makeup of his coalition to allow for support for a two-state resolution to the conflict. “Israeli has a tough decision to make,” he said. “Bibi has got a tough decision to make. There’s no question about the need to take on Hamas. There’s no question about that. None. Zero. They have every right.” “This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move” forward, so “I think he has to change… this government,” Biden said. “This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history – the most conservative. I’ve known every, every single head of state in Israel since Golda Meir. And I’ve known them because I’ve spent time with them.” He highlighted National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), saying those in the government now are a “different group” then previous coalitions. “Ben-Gvir and company and the new folks, they – they don’t want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution,” Biden said. “They not only want to have retribution,” but “they don’t want a two-state solution. They don’t want any – anything having to with the – the Palestinians.” He acknowledged that the Palestinians have not done a good job at governance, and that “a lot has happened that’s very negative,” adding that this does not absolve Israel of the obligation to move forward with a two-state resolution to the conflict. “We have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of an option – an option of a two-state [solution],” Biden said. “Such a move is important if Israel wants to advance its regional ties such as with Saudi Arabia.”