Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Israel that it doesn’t have the “credit” to carry out the necessary military campaign against Hamas.
The Biden administration won’t tolerate a large-scale bombing campaign in southern Gaza over several months.
Blinken’s comments were leaked to the Israeli press. The Times of Israel cited a transcript of his meeting with Israel’s war cabinet:
BLINKEN: You can’t operate in southern Gaza in the way you did in the north. There are two million Palestinians there. You need to evacuate fewer people from their homes, be more accurate in the attacks, not hit UN facilities, and ensure that there are enough protected areas [for civilians]. And if not? Then not to attack where there is a civilian population. What is your system of operation?
IDF Chief Herzi Halevi: We follow a number of principles — proportionality, distinction, and the laws of war. There were instances where we attacked on the basis of those principles, and instances where we decided not to attack, because we waited for a better opportunity.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: The entire Israeli society is united behind the goal of dismantling Hamas, even if it takes months.
BLINKEN: I don’t think you have the credit for that.
Blinken, usually perceived as a weak figure in public, delivered his stern ultimatums in private, bringing the contradictions in U.S. policy to a head.
Earlier this week, John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, stated, “We don’t support southern operations unless or until the Israelis can demonstrate that they’ve addressed the needs of all the internally displaced people in Gaza.”
He also mentioned that Israel has the “right and responsibility to eliminate” Hamas, without clarifying how these two priorities could be reconciled.
It wasn’t clear what Blinken meant by “credit” — whether it’s financial support from the U.S. or political credibility on the global stage. Israel has been stating for weeks that it anticipates the campaign to destroy Hamas to last for months, potentially a year.
A briefer conflict would necessitate more drastic military actions, conflicting with the careful approach Israel has adopted to minimize civilian casualties whenever possible.
The administration is under pressure from staff and left-wing voters to distance itself from Israel.
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