First, Secretary of State Blinken spent eight hours meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the wartime cabinet of the unity government at a military base in Tel Aviv.
I’m not sure what there was to hash out in that time. Blinken already got Israel to begin providing water to Gaza again (despite misleading claims by the media and on social media, Israel does not provide the majority of Gaza’s water, cutting it off doesn’t mean the cutoff of the Hamas territory’s water) and make life easier for those inside.
Every Biden official, including the Secretary of Defense, has already lectured Israel about the laws of war and civilian casualties, as if those could be avoided when fighting terrorists who operate among a civilian population. And when the line between the two is ambiguous.
But now there’s more of it.
“He’ll be asking some tough questions. He’ll be asking them as a friend, as a true friend of Israel,” national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters en route to Tel Aviv.
“By tough questions I don’t mean menacing or in any way adversarial. Just hard questions that a good friend of Israel would ask about where they think they are going, what their plans are going forward,” Kirby said.
Biden plans to discuss with the Israelis the situation on the ground, their objectives and intentions and the need to deter any actor, state or terrorist group from widening the conflict. He also wants to ask the prime minister and war cabinet what they believe their needs are from a security perspective as the White House mulls over an aid package for the country to ask Congress to pass.
Biden will also discuss the hostages held by Hamas, which includes some American citizens, and how to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
These are things that are hashed out by people like Blinken. There have been plenty of phone calls back and forth. That’s not what the “tough questions” are for. Tough means pressure. It means push Israel to do things and we have a pretty good idea of what those things are. Or what would require an 8-hour session with Blinken.
There are 3 things on the table here.
1. The Biden administration would like to wrap the war up quickly and cleanly. That may mean pulling out (as usual) and going back to negotiating with Hamas.
2. There may be a bit of a shift in the wind in D.C. and they’re ready to sign off on an end to Hamas… because they see this as a way of getting the Two-State Solution back on track. And the emphasis now is on how Fatah can take over the Gaza Strip afterward.
3. Concern over Hezbollah, Iran’s PMU’s in Iraq and other Shiite forces getting involved in the war.
It’s speculative, but knowing how D.C. thinks, I suspect point number two is taking up a lot of the time and energy, which is a classic case of counting chickens before they’ve hatched.
I would venture a guess that the plan out of D.C. is that Israel defeat Hamas with a minimum of civilian casualties, clear the way for Fatah (aka the PLO, Palestinian Authority) which is just another bunch of terrorists to take over, while keeping Hezbollah and Iran out of it. And the Biden administration, having come up with this plan, now expects Israel to figure out how to carry it out.