US and Israel headed for ‘breach’ over last Hamas battle: ‘Not going to stop us’ – Washington Examiner

Israel must not conduct a “major ground operation” against Hamas battalions in Rafah, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned this week.

“A major ground operation Rafa would be a mistake,” Blinken told reporters in Cairo. “It’s something that we can’t support. There is no place for the many civilians who are massed in [Rafah] to go to get out of harm’s way. And for those that would inevitably remain, it will be a humanitarian disaster.”

That statement represents one of the most blanket declarations of opposition to a Rafah campaign by President Joe Biden’s administration, as Blinken had previously suggested that “it’s possible” to plan a viable one. The hardened rejection points to a looming confrontation over war strategy between the United States and Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government maintains that a Rafah operation is essential for victory over Hamas.

“We’ll go into Rafah because we have to dismantle Hamas’s military capabilities,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a former ambassador to the United States, told Dan Senor in a Call Me Back podcast episode released Thursday.  “If you leave four [Hamas] battalions in Rafah, you’ve lost the war. And Israel’s not going to lose the war — with or without the United States — we’re not going to do it.”

That analysis amounts to “a false choice,” according to Blinken. “There’s also a false choice involved here because we are determined, as Israel is, … to deal with the ongoing problem posed by Hamas,” he said. “And Hamas can be effectively dealt with without a major ground operation in Rafah.”

The disagreement between American and Israeli officials has been building in recent months, layered over long-standing tensions between Biden and Netanyahu. The president visited Jerusalem last October to show solidarity with Israel in the weeks following the Hamas rampage that ignited the conflict on Oct. 7, but the high number of civilian casualties and the wider humanitarian suffering caused by the conflict has generated increasing U.S. pressure on Israel to curb its operations.

“Children should not be dying of malnutrition, in Gaza, or anywhere else for that matter,” the secretary of state said.

Blinken noted that the Biden administration will host Israeli officials in Washington next week “to share with them our views on what alternative actions could be that would deal with this very significant problem, but in a way that does not do further harm to civilians.”


Dermer, who will be part of the Israeli delegation for that trip, said he and his colleagues will “listen to them, out of respect to the president,” but he signaled that they do not expect to be persuaded.

“And the answer now when you [ask Israeli military strategists], ‘Can we destroy and dismantle Hamas military capabilities without going in an operation in Rafah?’ the answer is no,” Dermer said. “I don’t think it’s good at the end if there is a gap that we have and a breach over the issue of Rafah. It’s not going to stop us from winning this war, because we have no choice but to win this war.”