U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israel that it lacks “credit” to conduct the kind of military campaign necessary to defeat Hamas, saying that the Biden administration would not tolerate large-scale bombing over months in southern Gaza.
Blinken’s remarks were leaked to the Israeli press. The Times of Israel quoted 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, normally a weak figure in public, issued his tough ultimatums in private, bringing the contradictions in U.S. policy to a head.
Earlier this week, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said: “We don’t support southern operations, unless or until the Israelis can show that they’ve accounted for all the internally displaced people of Gaza.” He added that Israel had the “right and responsibility to eliminate” Hamas, though he did not explain how these two priorities could be reconciled.
It was not clear what Blinken meant by “credit” — whether financial credit from the U.S., or political credibility on the world stage. Israel has been saying for weeks that it expected the fight to destroy Hamas to take months, and perhaps a year.
A shorter fight would require more drastic military measures, at odds with the careful approach Israel has taken in an effort to avoid civilian casualties where possible.
The administration faces pressure from staff and left-wing voters to shift away from Israel.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.