European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed a firm determination to pursue a two-state solution during talks held in Brussels. The determination comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently opposed the idea of a Palestinian state.

During the discussions, Borrell questioned the alternative solutions Israel had in mind, expressing concerns over the destructive consequences of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. He emphasised that such actions might breed hatred for generations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki were present at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting. The meeting also included counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, and the Arab League secretary general.

Israeli Foreign Minister Katz’s mission in Brussels was two-fold: to seek EU support for Israel’s offensive against Hamas and to bring back hostages. Katz also proposed housing Palestinians on an artificial island in the Mediterranean as an alternative to the two-state solution. A video presentation accompanied the proposal, causing dismay among EU representatives.

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares pointed out the pressing need for the creation of a Palestinian state as a solution to the ongoing Middle East crisis. Albares declared that Spain is committed to moving beyond mere discussions of the two-state solution and believes it is time to actively implement the establishment of a Palestinian state. Albares highlighted that the country’s efforts are directed towards tangible steps in implementing the two-state solution, going beyond mere expressions of support. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez publicly voiced a comparable opinion in November, advocating for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The focus of the talks was a 12-point paper addressing the consequences of Hamas’s October attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli offensive in Gaza.

The paper underscored the importance of a peace process for a two-state solution. It suggested that any governance in Gaza without such a solution would be seen as an extension of occupation and a denial of Palestinian rights. It proposed initiating peace talks irrespective of ongoing violence, marking the second meeting hosted by EU’s Josep Borrell.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of a Palestinian state after the Gaza offensive drew criticism from EU foreign ministers. Foreign ministers from Ireland, France, and Germany expressed concerns. Advocating for the two-state solution, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi highlighted its necessity after over 30 years of intermittent peace talks.

As a significant economic aid provider to Palestinians, the EU hinted at potential leverage through its cooperation agreement with Israel, including a free-trade area. Some officials suggested using this arrangement as a means to influence Israel.

Meanwhile, the relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas stormed a parliamentary committee session in Jerusalem, demanding urgent action from lawmakers for the release of their loved ones. The scene unfolded as one woman displayed pictures of her three family members among the 253 people seized during the 7 October cross-border Hamas attacks.

Protesters at the Knesset’s finance committee pleaded for the safe return of their family members, holding signs that conveyed urgency: “You will not sit here while they die there.”

Earlier, relatives and supporters gathered outside former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem, setting up tents and urging the Israeli government to negotiate a deal for the release of their loved ones.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for a significant escalation in the intensity of the war during a party meeting, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Israel is continuing its attacks Gaza, with at least 190 people killed and 340 wounded in the last 24 hours. Reports indicate dozens were killed in the besieged southern city of Khan Younis as Israeli forces targeted hospitals, ambulances, and schools where thousands of civilians sought shelter.

Since 7 October, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza now stands at 25,295, with over 3,000 wounded.