‘Would Be Unacceptable’: Blinken And Netanyahu Meeting Hits Crossroads As Israeli Invasion Of Rafah Looms


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Jake Smith Contributor
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister met in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing Israel-Hamas war — and disagreements over the next phase of conflict.

The Biden administration is backing an effort to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages. During their meeting on Wednesday, Blinken discussed the ceasefire deal with Netanyahu and “the need to avoid further expansion of the conflict,” underscoring the Biden administration’s “clear position” on opposing an Israeli invasion of Rafah, the southernmost region of Gaza, according to a readout of the meeting. (RELATED: Trump Slams Netanyahu’s Leadership, Says He ‘Rightfully Has Been Criticized’ For Oct. 7 Attacks)

But Netanyahu reportedly told Blinken that he would not accept a deal in which Israel permanently ends its war efforts, which Hamas is demanding as a term of the deal, according to two Israeli and U.S. officials who spoke to Axios. Netanyahu said that if Hamas doesn’t make concessions on that demand, the deal will be scrapped and Israel will push forward with an invasion into Rafah.

A day prior to his meeting with Blinken, Netanyahu said that Israel would invade Rafah “with or without” a ceasefire deal to free the hostages. The Israeli government sees Rafah as the endgame to the war after waging a campaign through north and central Gaza that has largely eradicated Hamas.

When asked about Netanyahu’s comments on Tuesday, Blinken said the Biden administration’s focus was on a ceasefire deal and the release of hostages, according to The New York Times. Netanyahu and Blinken discussed the current proposed deal for roughly three hours on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden has said that an Israeli assault in Rafah would be crossing a “red line,” as the Biden administration fears it will pose a significant risk for the roughly 1.5 million refugees and civilians in the region. The Biden administration has asked Israel to provide a credible plan for an invasion that guarantees civilian safety and doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on the region.

But Israel has yet to provide that plan, according to the State Department.

“It continues to be the case that we have not seen a credible plan that would address the varying areas of concerns,” State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Tuesday. “Any kind of military operation into Rafah that does not address these concerns would be unacceptable to the United States.”

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