Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Thursday said his country may need to maintain a military presence in Gaza after the ongoing war to prevent the re-emergence of Hamas in the Palestinian territory, once again raising the possibility of an Israeli military occupation of the enclave, a solution the Biden administration strongly opposes.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Herzog said Israel would likely need to keep “very strong force” in Gaza for the near future, suggesting that a pullback would create a “vacuum.”
The Israeli President noted that his country’s government is discussing ideas about governing post-war Gaza, but assumes that the US and “our neighbors in the region” will also play a role.
Herzog did not commit to any particular idea, but said no one wants to allow the strip to become “a terror base again.”
Herzog’s interview came just hours after President Joe Biden told reporters in San Francisco he “made it clear” to the Israelis that occupying Gaza would be a “big mistake.”
Biden said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told him that the only answer here was a “two-state solution that is real.”
The president suggested efforts were being made to “bring along” Arab countries but did not offer details saying they were still negotiating “what the next steps are.”
“I’m not a fortune teller and I can’t tell you how long it’s [the war] is going to last. But I can tell you I don’t think it ends until there is a two-state solution. I made it clear to the Israelis I think it’s a big mistake for them to think they’re going to occupy Gaza and maintain Gaza. I don’t think that works,” Biden added.