Sullivan describes ‘intense conversations’ with Israel on when to shift from ‘high-intensity’ conflict in Gaza

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks to Channel 12 news on December 14, 2023. (Channel 12 screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks to Channel 12 news on December 14, 2023. (Channel 12 screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is in Israel today and tomorrow, tells Channel 12 that he and his team held “intense, detailed conversations” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet on when the IDF will transition away from high-intensity fighting in Gaza to focus on lower intensity fighting that would include targeting Hamas’s top leaders.

“Israel is going to continue to conduct its military efforts to get after Hamas for some time because, for example, they’re going to continue to hunt the top leaders of Hamas, Sinwar and Deif and Issa, and we don’t know exactly how long that will take,” Sullivan says. “So the issue really is when does Israel shift from the high-intensity military operations that are underway today to a different phase of this conflict, one that’s more precise, more targeted, more driven towards things like those high-value individuals?… We had a very constructive conversation about these phases.”

Sullivan arrived in Israel earlier today and has met with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the war cabinet, and other Israeli officials for discussions on the war and regional threats.

Asked about Gallant saying earlier today that more than a few months would be needed to dismantle Hamas, Sullivan says, “What I heard Minister Gallant say today was that the fight against Hamas will go on for months. And against any terrorist group that continues to have leaders who are the authors of the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust, it’s going to take time until those leaders are found and dealt with, and that could take months, obviously,” he says in reference to October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages. “The issue here is about when the transition from a high-intensity operation to a different phase of this campaign takes place, one that will look different and operate differently on the ground and have different impacts on the civilian population of Gaza. That’s what we really discussed today.”

“We had an intense, detailed conversation on this transition, and I can’t share publicly the details of that,” he says.

Pressed on whether the US might “pull out a stop sign,” Sullivan replies: “I’m not here to lecture or dictate. Israel is a friend and a partner. We sit down and we consult and we talk as friends. President Biden talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu as friends… And we work through what we see as being the strategic and tactical advantages and disadvantages of different courses of action. And we offer our input.”

He says that input is based on three factors. “One, what is going to help lead to the end of Hamas as a military or terrorist threat to Israel? Full stop. Two, what is going to ensure that the civilian population of Gaza, who has nothing to do with Hamas, is supported and protected? And three, how do we put Israel and the United States in the strongest possible position to deal with the wider set of adversaries we face in this region? That’s what we sat down to discuss today,” he says, “and there was a wide degree of convergence on both the strategic objectives and on some of the steps we need to take from here to achieve them.”

On the hostages, Sullivan does not go into specifics but says the US and Israel are looking to “explore what is possible on another phase of hostage releases.”

The US, he says, is “determined to stop at nothing to ensure that every last one of them gets safely home to their families.”

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