Israel prefers U.S. support, but is prepared to go into Rafah regardless

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Jan. 9, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the Jewish state cannot defeat the Hamas terror organization without going into and destroying the battalions in Rafah.

“I told him that I hope we would do this with U.S. support, but if necessary, we will do it alone,” Netanyahu said, after the two met privately on March 22 in the Kirya in Tel Aviv, in a translation his office provided of his Hebrew statement.

Blinken is also slated to meet with the expanded War Cabinet, according to Netanyahu’s office. A schedule released by that the U.S. State Department said Blinken and Netanyahu were slated to meet at 11:15 a.m. Israel time, and that the broader meeting with the War Cabinet was called for 12:10 p.m. local time.

Both were closed to the press, according to the State Department.

The prime minister also told Blinken that he greatly appreciates that the two have stood together in the war against Hamas for more than five months.

“I also told him that we recognize the need to evacuate the civilian population from the combat zones and — of course — also see to the humanitarian needs,” Netanyahu added. “We are working to this end.”

Blinken “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security and the lasting defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah,” said Blinken, according to a readout that Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, released after the secretary met with Netanyahu and then the War Cabinet.

Blinken “discussed efforts to reach an agreement for a ceasefire of at least six weeks that would secure the release of hostages and enable a surge in humanitarian assistance,” Miller said, and the secretary “emphasized the need to protect civilians in Gaza and increase and sustain humanitarian assistance, including through both land and sea routes.”

Blinken also “briefed the War Cabinet on his consultations in Jeddah and Cairo about efforts to achieve lasting peace and security for Israel, the Palestinian people and the broader region,” Miller added.

Also on March 22, Miller released a readout of what he said was “a call” in Tel Aviv between Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The two “discussed the ongoing negotiations to achieve a ceasefire of at least six weeks, which would secure the release of hostages and enable a surge of critical humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” according to Miller.

Blinken “reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and the lasting defeat of Hamas,” said Miller, using nearly the same language as the other readout.

The secretary also stressed “the need for Israel to take all possible measures to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza — including through the prompt, effective facilitation of critical humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza,” Miller added. “The secretary also underscored the U.S. commitment to securing lasting peace and stability in the region.”