In an interview with CBS program 60 Minutes, U.S. President Joe Biden affirmed that Israel needs to eliminate Hamas but said that occupying Gaza would “be a big mistake.”
Biden answered a range of questions about the American hostages in Gaza, the Israeli siege of Gaza, the two-state solution, Iran’s involvement and the ability of the U.S. to manage more than one conflict.
Israel has maintained a heavy bombardment of Hamas-affiliated sites in Gaza since the beginning of the war.
Because Hamas has established its operation centers and weapons storage in civilian areas, including schools, mosques, and hospitals, Israel’s strikes against the terror group have already produced civilian casualties in Gaza.
Biden blasted Hamas for its use of civilians as human shields.
“The use of innocent families as human shields is a gross violation of human rights and international law,” Biden said in a speech on Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner.
In his 60 Minutes interview, released Sunday evening, Biden continued to affirm Israel’s right to attack Hamas.
When asked, “Do you believe that Hamas must be eliminated entirely?” Biden responded, “Yes, I do."
“But there needs to be a Palestinian Authority. There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state,” he added.
Just moments before, show host Scott Pelley asked Biden if he supported an Israeli occupation of Gaza after the war.
“I think it'd be a big mistake,” Biden said.
Biden also appeared to support an Israeli effort against Hezbollah, the terror group based in Lebanon which has been threatening Israel's north.
“I think that... it would be a mistake to... for Israel to occupy... Gaza again. But going in, but taking out the extremists, the Hezbollah is up north but Hamas down south... is a necessary requirement.”
On Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Israel has no intentions of occupying Gaza.
“We have no desire to occupy or reoccupy Gaza. We have no desire to rule over the lives of more than two million Palestinians,” Herzog said.
After the 60 Minutes interview aired, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan responded to Biden's statement about occupying Gaza, saying Israel has “no interest” in occupying the territory.
Erdan also thanked Biden for affirming Israel’s need to destroy Hamas.
Thank you President Biden for recognizing what Israel has been saying since the barbaric Hamas massacre occurred: Israel’s goal is the total elimination of Hamas’ terror capabilities https://t.co/rqRGDh5Onl— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) October 16, 2023
During his interview, Biden admitted that Israel would have little motivation to pursue a two-state solution initially after the war’s end.
When asked by Pelley if Israel would support a two-state solution after what took place, Biden responded, “Not now. Not now. Not now, but... but I think Israel understands that a significant portion of Palestinian people do not share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Pelley also asked Biden directly: “Is Iran behind the Gaza war?”
“I don't wanna get into classified information. But to be very blunt with you, there is no clear evidence of that,” Biden responded.
Pelley pressed again, “At this point, no evidence that Iran is behind any of this?”
“Correct,” Biden responded. “Now, Iran constantly supports Hamas and Hezbollah. I don't mean that. But in terms of were they... did they have foreknowledge? Did they help plan the attack? There's – there's no evidence of that at this point.”
Biden has consistently maintained that Iran was not behind the Oct. 7 attack, as has been the claim of many of his Republican opponents.
The Wall Street Journal claimed that Iran was involved in planning and supporting the attacks.
Hamas leaders thanked Iran for its support in a speech celebrating the attacks.
Israel has also maintained that Iran was involved.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.