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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.

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kabul crisis complicates Israeli prime minister's White House visit

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday at the Pentagon. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will visit the White House Friday, a day later than originally planned, and he'll find a president in distress.

Why it matters: This is not how the new prime minister imagined his first meeting with President Biden. An hour before he was supposed to walk into the Oval Office, disaster struck in Kabul.

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.