The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion As hostages suffer, Israel needs to make tough strategic choices

Protesters call for a deal to facilitate the return of over 100 Israeli hostages on Jan. 18, in Tel Aviv. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
4 min

It was probably inevitable: As the war in Gaza passed the 100-day mark, fissures have appeared in the united front between the Biden administration and Israel. Washington appears to have gotten the Israeli war cabinet to allow in humanitarian aid and, more recently, to reduce the intensity of its operations in Gaza. But on the essential issue — defining a strategic endgame for the war — the two are openly at odds. President Biden urges an eventual Palestinian state, and yet on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphatically ruled it out.

Mr. Biden is articulating a position that is both right on the long-term merits and favorable to his domestic political interests. Mr. Netanyahu is wrong about the issue — but has judged his political self-interest as accurately as Mr. Biden. In the wake of Oct. 7, Israelis have lost faith in peace processes, the country’s president, Isaac Herzog reminded the World Economic Forum at Davos last week. Sixty-five percent oppose a Palestinian state, according to a December Gallup poll.