Ahead of meeting with US envoy, Israeli president says now isn’t time to discuss 2-state solution

 Israel’s president has joined the ranks of high-ranking Israeli officials to speak out against a two-state solution after the war in Gaza.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Isaac Herzog said it is not the time to be talking about establishing an independent Palestinian state when the country’s pain from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is still fresh.

“What I want to urge is against just saying two-state solution. Why? Because there is an emotional chapter here that must be dealt with. My nation is bereaving. My nation is in trauma,” said Herzog.

“In order to get back to the idea of dividing the land, of negotiating peace or talking to the Palestinians, etc., one has to deal first and foremost with the emotional trauma that we are going through and the need and demand for full sense of security for all people,” he said.

Herzog spoke a day before a meeting with the White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The Biden administration has said that after the war, efforts must be renewed to restart negotiations aimed at establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, is a former leader of Israel’s Labor Party, which advocates a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

But in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered Israel’s war in Gaza, Israeli leaders have spoken out against attempts to restart peace talks after the war and ruled out any role for the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Some 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 attack and 240 others were taken hostage. Israel immediately declared war, carrying out weeks of airstrikes and a ground offensive in which over 18,000 Palestinians have died, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

With the U.S. pushing for a timetable from Israel, Herzog predicted the Israeli campaign in hard-hit northern Gaza could wrap up within weeks. But he declined to say when the war would end.

Israel has ducked international calls for a ceasefire, saying it will press ahead until it dismantles Hamas’ military and political capabilities.

“I think one can see that in the northern part of Gaza, one can see the horizon,” Herzog said. “We can see the end of that campaign, not far away in the next few weeks.”

He added that the end of the campaign in the south would only come when Hamas was “completely eradicated.”

Herzog also spoke in favor of an emerging U.S.-led coalition to protect the Red Sea from the Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and also launched drones and missiles targeting Israel. In recent days, they have threatened to attack any vessel they believe is either going to or coming from Israel.

The coalition, set to be formally announced next week, is composed of U.S. and European allies, and aims to protect international shipping from the Houthi attacks. Israel will not be contributing its own ships to the coalition, Israeli officials told The Associated Press, preferring to allow the international community to target the issue and focus on the war in Gaza.

“I demand and I call upon all nations who understand this to join the coalition, which is led by the United States of America, to fight against the Houthis and make it clear that this is unacceptable and won’t be repeated again,” said Herzog.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga