May 2, 2024 | Flash Brief

Lacking Hostage Deal, Blinken Continues to Stall Israeli Ground Operation in Rafah

May 2, 2024 | Flash Brief

Lacking Hostage Deal, Blinken Continues to Stall Israeli Ground Operation in Rafah

Latest Developments

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 1 emphasized his unease with Israel’s pledge to carry out a ground operation in Rafah. Blinken, who concluded another Middle East troubleshooting tour with a visit to Israel this week, repeated calls on Hamas to accept a truce agreement in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages. However, he voiced skepticism about Israel’s ability to evacuate Palestinian civilians before its promised assault on Hamas’s final bastion in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“Our position is that we cannot and will not support a major military operation in Rafah absent a clear, credible plan to protect civilians. We’ve not seen such a plan,” Blinken told Andrea Mitchell of NBC. “And there are also better ways to do what Israel needs to do in terms of dealing with the remaining Hamas problem.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 30 that the Rafah operation will go ahead after any Gaza truce concludes or in the absence of a truce — a reiteration of Jerusalem’s refusal to countenance Hamas demands that the war end before the Palestinian terrorist group can be disarmed and dismantled. Asked about Netanyahu’s position, Blinken reiterated his support for a deal that would bring about “an immediate ceasefire, which everyone wants, and getting the hostages home, which everyone should want.”

“People say things; let’s focus on what they’re doing, what we’re doing,” Blinken said. “And the most immediate thing, the most urgent thing is seeing in the days ahead what Hamas’s response is to a very strong proposal that’s on the table.”

Hamas continues to reject an Israeli proposal that Blinken described as “very generous” in comments made at the World Economic Forum summit in Riyadh on April 29. On April 30, President Joe Biden posted on X that “Hamas … is now the only obstacle to an immediate ceasefire and relief for civilians in Gaza.”

Expert Analysis

“It is curious that Hamas, a group that has for almost three decades had top billing on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, now enjoys regular and failed public appeals to negotiate from the same State Department. What is even more perplexing is the Biden administration’s determination to undermine Israel’s military credibility. If Washington cannot agree with its ally in private about the necessity or tactics of a Rafah operation — must this be aired publicly? And if Biden aides insist on repeatedly condemning Israel’s insistence of going in on the ground, would it not behoove them to state their proposed alternatives openly?” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Under pressure from Washington, Israel has delayed the Rafah operation for months in hopes of bringing home through U.S.-brokered negotiations the Israeli hostages held there. Now, Blinken seems to be telling Jerusalem that despite Washington’s failure to negotiate the release of additional hostages, the United States will not back an operation in Rafah, where Israelis are being held. Jerusalem will likely pursue the goals of this war — destroying Hamas and bringing home the hostages — with or without the U.S. administration’s blessing.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

IDF Strikes Hamas Positions in Gaza Ahead of Planned Offensive,” FDD Flash Brief

World Central Kitchen Resumes Gaza Operations,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Dismantles Terror Tunnels in Gaza,” FDD Flash Brief


Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy