May 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Israel has not shown U.S. plan for protecting civilians in Gaza: Blinken

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) during a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos in the East Room of the White House on April 11, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) during a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos in the East Room of the White House on April 11, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Tony Blinken confirmed Sunday that Israel has not shown the U.S. a plan for protecting civilians in Gaza, or for how the enclave could be run after the war's end.

Why it matters: The Biden administration's concerns over Israel's planned military operation in Rafah led President Biden to warn that he would withhold weapons which prompted backlash from Republicans.

  • On Saturday, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the House will vote next week on legislation which, if passed, would require delivery of military aid to Israel within 15 days.
  • The Biden administration has said it isn't abandoning Israel following Biden's comments to CNN, but an invasion of Rafah would halt weapons transfers on a wide-scale level.

What he's saying: "If Israel launches this major military operation to Rafah, then there's certain systems that we're not going to be supporting and supplying for that operation," Blinken said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

  • "At present, the only thing that we've delayed and are holding back are these high payload bombs," he said.
  • Blinken added that the U.S. is discussing the situation with Israel "given the impact that those weapons can have, when they're used in densely populated areas."

Blinken said the U.S. also wants to see a plan for how Israel will protect civilians and for what comes after the war, calling both "critically important."

  • He said U.S. officials haven't seen a plan for either situation, and while Israel might go into Rafah and have some success it is a situation that is not sustainable and would be undertaken "potentially at an incredibly high cost to civilians."
  • "[Israel] will be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency because a lot of armed Hamas will be left no matter what they do in Rafah," Blinken said.
  • Blinken said that the U.S. has the same objective as Israel to demilitarize Gaza and keep Hamas out, but the U.S. is approaching it in a "different way."

Worth noting: Blinken's comments come hours after Israel ordered additional evacuations in Rafah, and days after the release of a State Department report that revealed the U.S. has concerns about some actions Israel has taken during the war.

  • The report said that there were no conditions that warranted withholding military aid, but that the country likely violated international standards when it comes to protecting civilians.
  • The report is unrelated to Biden withholding a recent weapons shipment.
  • Blinken said Sunday that it is "very difficult to determine, particularly in the midst of war, exactly what happened" and that the State Department didn't come to any final conclusion in the report at this time.
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