Updated Mar 22, 2024 - World

Blinken unloads on Bibi: "You need a coherent plan" or face disaster in Gaza

Blinken Netanyahu

Blinken (L) with Netanyahu on a visit to Tel Aviv in October. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Blinken warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet in a meeting on Friday that Israel's security and its place in the world are in peril, and "you might not realize it until it's too late," a source familiar with the meeting told Axios.

Why it matters: Blinken's stark warning reflects the growing anxiety inside the Biden administration that Israel's strategy in Gaza, or lack thereof, could lead to a perpetual occupation and insurgency in the enclave.

Behind the scenes: Blinken told Netanyahu and the war cabinet that he came to Israel as a friend who spent the past five months defending Israel around the world.

  • But he warned that on the current trajectory, without a clear plan for the day after the war, Israel will be left with a major insurgency it can't handle.
  • "You need a coherent plan, or either you're going to be stuck in Gaza," Blinken said, according to the source.
  • The Secretary of State said that on the current path, Hamas will stay in control in Gaza or there will be anarchy, which will just create the conditions for more terrorism.
  • According to the source, Netanyahu said after Blinken's remarks: "We will have our hands full for decades."

The other side: Netanyahu's office did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment about Blinken's warning.

  • Netanyahu said in a statement after the meeting that he'd told the secretary of state he appreciates the U.S. support for Israel since the October 7 attacks.
  • "I told Blinken we recognize the need to evacuate the civilian population from war zones in Gaza and to take care of humanitarian needs and that we are taking action in this direction."
  • "But I also told Blinken that we can't defeat Hamas without going into Rafah and dismantling the remaining battalions there. I told him that I hope we can do it with U.S. support but if we need to we will do it on our own."

Between the lines: The Biden administration has been strongly warning Netanyahu against a ground offensive in Rafah, where over one million Palestinian civilians are sheltering.

  • The State Department readout of the meeting said Blinken "reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Israel's security and the lasting defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah," as well as the need to protect civilians in Gaza.
  • It also said Blinken and Netanyahu discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire lasting at least six weeks, along with the release of hostages.

The latest: After the meeting, Blinken met the family members of the U.S. hostages held in Gaza. Demonstrators outside the meeting shouted: "Blinken we trust you. Save their lives."

What's next: Two senior Israeli officials will arrive in Washington next week for talks with the Biden administration on Rafah.

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