Gaza and the West Bank should eventually be "reunited" under a new Palestinian Authority, US President Joe Biden said in an opinion piece Saturday, as questions swirl over the future of the region once Israel achieves its goal of crushing the Hamas militant group.
"As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution," Biden wrote in the piece published in The Washington Post.
Israel's top ally Washington has given its full backing to the country's response to the October 7 shock attack by Hamas, which left 1,200 dead, mostly civilians. About 240 people were taken hostage.
But as the death toll from Israel's military campaign in Gaza continues to climb -- to 12,300 people, including more than 5,000 children, according to the Hamas government -- the United States has voiced concerns over the manner of the strikes and questions over the long-term future of the territory once Hamas is vanquished.
"A two-state solution is the only way to ensure the long-term security of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. Though right now it may seem like that future has never been further away, this crisis has made it more imperative than ever," Biden said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not reject Biden's plan, but said the Palestinian Authority "in its current form is not capable of receiving responsibility for Gaza."
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has not condemned the Hamas attack and his senior ministers are celebrating it, Netanyahu said.
"We can't have a civilian authority in Gaza that supports terror, encourages terror, pays terror, and teaches terror," he said at a news conference.
Abbas, meanwhile, appealed to Biden to use his "significant influence" on Israel "to intervene immediately to... stop this humanitarian catastrophe, this genocide against our innocent people."
In a meeting with top US diplomat Antony Blinken earlier this month, Abbas said the PA could only assume power in Gaza if a "comprehensive political solution" is found for the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict encompassing the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, 88, who has led the PA for 18 years, is widely unpopular and has been powerless against the rapid expansion of Israeli settlements and military control in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
In his letter Saturday, Biden also threatened sanctions against settlers committing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank amid the conflict in Gaza.
"I have been emphatic with Israel's leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable," he said.
"The United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank."
The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah says since the Gaza war started more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, with a spike in army raids and Israeli settler violence.