Updated Oct 16, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden says Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a "big mistake"

President Biden speaking on CBS News' "60 Minutes" in his interview, broadcast Sunday.

President Biden speaking on CBS News' "60 Minutes" in his interview, broadcast Sunday. Photo: CBS News/"60 Minutes"

Hamas must be eliminated but an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a "big mistake," President Biden said in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast Sunday evening.

Why it matters: Israel is preparing for a ground offensive in Gaza and the Israeli military has said it's planning for a "wide range of operational offensive plans."

Yes, but: Michael Herzog, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., told CNN on Sunday that Israel had "no desire to occupy or reoccupy Gaza" and "no desire to rule over the lives of over two million Palestinians."

What they're saying: Biden told CBS' Scott Pelley that there would still need to be a Palestinian authority. "There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state," he said.

  • Biden said that Hamas and its "extreme elements" do not represent all the Palestinian people.
  • He said that "going in but taking out the extremists, the Hezbollah is up north" and "Hamas down south" was a necessary requirement, but called for a humanitarian corridor that would allow some of the two million Gazans out of the region and for humanitarian supplies to be brought in.

Between the lines: Biden has been full-throated in his support for Israel in the wake of the Hamas attack, but his remarks on "60 Minutes" signal that he hopes to keep some guardrails on what is likely to be a massive Israeli operation in response.

  • Israeli and U.S. officials are discussing the possibility of Biden visiting Israel this week. This would be both a show of support for Israel during the war with Hamas and a message to Iran and Hezbollah not to join the fighting, Axios' Barak Ravid notes.

Of note: Pelley asked Biden whether the threat of terrorism in the U.S. had increased due to the situation in the Middle East.

  • "Yes," Biden replied, noting he'd met with Homeland Security and FBI officials "to discuss how we make sure that we prevent a lone wolf" and/or any coordinated effort to target Jewish people.

Zoom out: FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in San Diego Saturday that "in this heightened environment" amid the Israel-Hamas war, "there's no question" that the agency was seeing an increase in reported threats.

  • "History has been witness to antisemitic and other forms of violent extremism for far too long," he said.
  • "Whether that be from foreign terrorist organizations, or those inspired by them, or domestic violent extremists motivated by their own racial animus, the targeting of a community because of their faith is totally unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Biden issued a statement late Sunday condemning a stabbing in the Chicago area over the weekend that police said was connected to the Israel-Hamas war, which left a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy dead and his mother critically injured.

  • The Justice Department has opened a hate crimes investigation into the incident.

More from Axios:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper