Israeli official dismisses reports of divisions between Jerusalem and Washington over Hamas war

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

Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 11, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 11, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

A senior Israeli official dismisses the growing public perception of a gap between Jerusalem and Washington regarding the IDF’s prosecution of its war against Hamas in Gaza.

“There’s 100% agreement from the US on our goals for the war both in public and private,” the senior Israeli official says in a briefing with The Times of Israel.

The senior Israeli official defends the IDF’s conduct, arguing that it is operating in very specific areas, as opposed to what it did in northern Gaza. Before entering such locations, it has called on civilians to evacuate to safe zones.

Rights groups have rejected this approach, claiming civilians are still coming under fire after evacuating and that the IDF has yet to issue directives allowing civilians to return to areas from which they’ve been told to evacuate, shrinking the amount of territory that is available for the population of 2.3 million.

The senior Israeli official notes the “incredibly difficult conditions” the IDF is facing, given Hamas’s use of tunnels and hiding among civilians, making for far from regular urban combat conditions.

But the senior Israeli official insists that the US has shown understanding of this privately and that Washington’s messaging is more nuanced behind closed doors.

“We definitely feel the support at all levels,” the official says, pointing to the US veto of a “hostile” resolution at the UN Security Council over the weekend, which called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza without condemning Hamas. “The support the US has shown us is nothing short of extraordinary.”

“Minister Gallant and Secretary Austin are in constant communication, and there’s complete transparency between them,” the official says of the two defense chiefs.

The senior Israeli official says the length of the current stage of the war was “less a derivative of time than achievements on the ground. There are things we need to achieve before we can move on to the next phase.”

As for postwar planning, the senior official acknowledges that Israel is still in its early stages: “But we know that it won’t be Israel or Hamas ruling Gaza. We have no plans to reoccupy Gaza.”

“That’s a really important starting point, and we’ll have to take it from there,” the senior Israeli official says.

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