We’re Going into Rafah; Talks with White House Only on ‘Humanitarian’ Operations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis on Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were preparing to begin the attack on the last Hamas battalions in the city of Rafah, despite White House opposition.

Netanyahu added that meetings later this week or early next week between the Biden Administration and senior Israeli officials would focus on the humanitarian side of the operation and the evacuation of Palestinian civilians.

The implication was that Netanyahu would not be deterred by White House warnings earlier this week that President Joe Biden opposed an Israeli invasion of Rafah and believed that Hamas could be defeated without one.

Rafah is a town on the Egyptian border in southern Gaza. It is thought to be the last Hamas stronghold, where the terrorist organization is hiding its leaders and its 134 remaining Israeli hostages. It is also a key smuggling point.

Israel has said that control of Rafah is crucial to victory in the war, both to eliminate the remaining four Hamas battalions in southern Gaza (one and-a-half remain in central Gaza), and to prevent Hamas leaders from escaping.

Netanyahu’s full statement, as translated and provided by the Government Press Office, is as follows:

Citizens of Israel, here is a brief update on my most recent conversation with US President Joe Biden.

At the beginning, we agreed that Hamas needs to be eliminated. But during the war, it is no secret, there have been disagreements between us on the best way to achieve this goal.

At the outset, I told the President: It is impossible to defeat Hamas without the IDF entering the Gaza Strip. In our latest conversation, I told him: It is impossible to complete the victory without the IDF entering Rafah in order to eliminate the remnants of Hamas’s battalions.

I want you to know that I have already approved the IDF’s operational plan, and soon we will also approve the plan to evacuate the civilian population from the battle zones.

President Biden, whose support I appreciate, asked to present us with the proposals from his side in the humanitarian sphere, and also on other topics.

And as I have said – there have been times when we have agreed with our friends, and there have been times when we have not agreed with them. In the end, we have always done what is vital for our security, and this is what we will do this time as well.

As we are preparing to enter Rafah, and this will take a little time, we are continuing to operate with full force. We are continuing to operate in Khan Yunis, in the camps in the center, in eliminating and capturing senior Hamas officials as we have just done in Shifa, and in eliminating hundreds of terrorists.

As I have promised you time and again, we are determined to achieve total victory, and we will achieve it.

Netanyahu’s statement will provoke questions as to whether Biden only wants Israel to confer with the White House about “the humanitarian sphere.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday that the White House expected that Israel would not enter Rafah without consultation: “We have every expectation that they’re not going to proceed with a major military operation in Rafah until we have that conversation.”

That same day, Israel conducted airstrikes in Rafah targeting several senior Hamas leaders. Israeli government spokesman David Mencer told Breitbart News on Tuesday that Israel had the right to pursue Hamas anywhere, even though Israel preferred to be “on the same page” with the United States.

Netanyahu did not specify when, exactly, an operation in Rafah would begin, but he has said in the past that it would last “weeks,” not months.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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