May 19, 2021 - World

U.S. backing on Gaza won't last much longer, Blinken tells Israeli counterpart

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday that Israel needs another few days to complete its Gaza operation, but Blinken stressed that the U.S. expects the operation to end soon, an Israeli official tells Axios

What they're saying: In their call, Blinken told Ashkenazi the U.S. was blocking a French initiative at the UN Security Council on Gaza but cannot keep backing Israel publicly and diplomatically, mainly at the UN, for much longer, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The call between Blinken and Ashkenazi was part of the intensifying diplomatic squeeze to move toward a ceasefire in Gaza, which Israel is still fending off for now.

Driving the news: Blinken's call with Ashkenazi followed calls between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz.

  • Ashkenazi told Blinken that Israel still has several military goals it hopes to achieve in Gaza, and needs more time.
  • Israeli officials said on all three calls, the issue of domestic political pressure from Congress for a ceasefire was mentioned.
  • Meanwhile France circulated its draft Security Council resolution on Wednesday calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The U.S. mission to the UN said it opposes the move and will not engage on the text.

The state of play: In recent days, Egyptian intelligence officials and UN envoy Tor Wennesland have held talks with Hamas officials and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat regarding a possible ceasefire.

  • Ben Shabbat listened to the proposals, but hasn't received any authorization from Netanyahu to enter into negotiations, Israeli officials say. Hamas, on the other hand, did actively engage.
  • Israeli officials said they expect the Israeli policy to change on Thursday and negotiations to begin.
  • Meanwhile, Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that he expects the talks to produce a ceasefire within a day or two.

Nevertheless, getting an agreement could take between 24 and 72 hours, Israeli officials say — time Israel wants to use to complete its military plans in Gaza.

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