ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Blinken urges Israel to turn on more Gaza water pipelines

Blinken: Israel needs to think about who will rule Gaza if Hamas is toppled

US secretary of state says that despite Jerusalem’s insistence it doesn’t want to remain in enclave, it must think about ‘day-after’ strategy, even as it plans ground operation

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

From left, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US President Joe Biden listen during a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the Cabinet Room of the White House, October 20, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
From left, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US President Joe Biden listen during a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the Cabinet Room of the White House, October 20, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Israel should already be devising a strategy for who will rule Gaza if the IDF completes its stated mission of toppling Hamas.

“There are different ideas out there about what could follow, but all of that needs to be worked out and it’s something that needs to be worked out even as Israel is dealing with the current threat,” Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

This appeared to be the first time that Washington has publicly urged Israel to think about its broader strategy, after officials speaking anonymously earlier said US President Joe Biden and other administration officials have privately been pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides to come up with one, in order to avoid making the same mistakes that the US made after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to it being bogged down in Mideast wars for years.

Israeli officials have said publicly that they are currently focused on eradicating Hamas and are not thinking about what might come afterwards. Netanyahu said the same thing to Biden during the US president’s visit to Israel last week, according to a US and an Israeli official, who said that the government’s newest ministers from the National Unity party — which joined from the opposition to form a wartime cabinet — have demanded the crafting of a more holistic strategy upon entering the government.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement on Friday declaring that the premier’s defined goal for the Gaza war is “the elimination of Hamas. All talk of decisions to hand over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority or any other party is a lie.”

Netanyahu has come under fire since the start of the war with Hamas from critics who have accused him of working to strengthen Hamas over the past 15 years, in order to divide the Palestinian factions and weaken the more moderate PA, which has expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Asked who Israel would like to see govern Gaza after the war is over, Blinken told “Meet the Press”: “We can’t go back to the status quo. They can’t go back to the status quo, with Hamas being in a position in terms of its governance of Gaza to repeat what it did… At the same time, what I’ve heard from the Israelis — is absolutely no intent, no desire to be running Gaza themselves.”

“So, something needs to be found that ensures that Hamas can’t do this again, but that also doesn’t revert to Israeli governance of Gaza, which they do not want and do not intend to do,” the secretary said.

Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” earlier on Sunday that the US was also continuing to work to evacuate American citizens who are trying to leave Gaza, saying that “Hamas has blocked them from leaving, showing, once again, its total disregard for civilians of any kind who are stuck in Gaza.”

Blinken added in the NBC interview that the US would like to see Israel expand the water supply into Gaza.

Israel turned one of the water pipelines into Gaza back on last week, but “there are a couple of other pipelines that we’d like to see restored,” Blinken said.

The top US diplomat added that desalination plants need to be powered back on, in order to ensure that the drinking water in Gaza is clean, noting that the Biden administration is concerned about the spreading of disease in the enclave caused by civilians drinking dirty water.

The secretary of state said the US is working “every day” to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza for Palestinian civilians.

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