newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Sullivan: ‘Political strategy needed to ensure lasting defeat of Hamas’

The U.S. National Security Advisor met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 19, 2024. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 19, 2024. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. The two men discussed the war against Hamas and the potential for normalization with Saudi Arabia, among other topics.

The discussion focused on Rafah, humanitarian assistance to Gaza, the hostage issue and the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border, according to Netanyahu’s office.

Hamas still holds 128 hostages out of 253 kidnapped during the Oct. 7 onslaught on the northwestern Negev.

Also attending the meeting of the modified U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group (SCG) was Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Council Director Tzahi Hanegbi and Brett McGurk, the U.S. National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer (center) and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Jerusalem, May 19, 2024. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Following the meeting, the American delegation and Israeli officials held a lengthy conversation on the “continuation of the war in Gaza, with emphasis on the activity in Rafah, and increasing the humanitarian effort in the Strip.”

During the SCG meeting, Sullivan “was briefed on Israeli military operations in Gaza, and the two sides discussed methods to ensure the defeat of Hamas while minimizing harm to civilians,” according to the White House readout of Sunday’s meetings.

The Biden administration has consistently emphasized its opposition to a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah, fearing civilian casualties. According to the White House, Sullivan “reiterated the president’s longstanding position on Rafah.”

Sullivan also proposed “concrete measures” to ensure that more aid flows into Gaza through the land crossings and the floating pier built by the U.S. military that began operations on Friday.

“Mr. Sullivan and his counterparts also discussed steps to build a more effective deconfliction mechanism to ensure humanitarian workers can safely deliver aid to those in need and establish fixed corridors inside Gaza to ensure aid is able to reach all those in need throughout Gaza,” according to the White House.  

The Biden administration envoy also briefed the Israelis on U.S. support for efforts to bring Hamas leaders to justice.

Sullivan also mentioned talks with Egypt on securing its border with Rafah, where Israeli forces so far have located 50 smuggling tunnels running from Sinai to Gaza.

“Mr. Sullivan reaffirmed the need for Israel to connect its military operations to a political strategy that can ensure the lasting defeat of Hamas, the release of all the hostages, and a better future for Gaza,” according to the White House.

Before visiting Israel, Sullivan was in Saudi Arabia, where he discussed a bilateral strategic agreement between Washington and Riyadh with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The early Sunday meeting with Prince Mohammed took place in Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf, a major administrative center for the country’s oil industry.

According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the draft agreement is nearly finalized, and the two sides are working on “the Palestinian issue” to “find a credible path” forward.

Regional developments were also discussed, “including the situation in Gaza and the need to stop the war there and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid.”

According to the White House, Sullivan briefed Netanyahu on the Saudi meetings “and the potential that may now be available for Israel, as well as the Palestinian people.”

Sullivan also met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem on Sunday.

During a meeting with senior officials led by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on Monday, Sullivan was briefed on the war against Hamas in Gaza and efforts to free the captives.

Present at the meeting were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir, OC IDF Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog, Defense Ministry Policy Bureau head Dror Shalom, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defense Shachar Katz and Military Secretary to the Minister of Defense Brig. Gen. Guy Markizano.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2024. Video by Shachar Yurman.

“Minister Gallant and his delegation presented humanitarian plans undertaken in Gaza that complement operational activities on the ground. This includes significant efforts to evacuate the civilian population in Rafah, facilitating the provision of humanitarian services, and operating in a precise manner to avoid harm to uninvolved civilians,” Gallant’s office said.

“In discussing the complex operational and humanitarian environment in Rafah, Minister Gallant emphasized Israel’s moral obligation to dismantle Hamas as a governing and military authority, and to ensure the return of hostages held in Gaza,” the office continued.

Gallant also discussed with Sullivan the importance of “presenting a united front against common enemies,” highlighted by Iran and its terrorist proxies.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (left) and Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2024. Photo by Ariel Hermoni/IMoD.

Gallant warned that Hezbollah’s refusal to stop its ongoing aggression and to accept a diplomatic solution raises the prospects of a “significant escalation” at the northern frontier, while emphasizing Israel’s commitment to returning internally displaced residents to their homes near the Lebanese border, who number more than 80,000.

“Minister Gallant also raised ways to strengthen Israel’s strategic posture in the Middle East, while maintaining its qualitative military edge,” the statement added.

“Minister Gallant expressed his appreciation to Advisor Sullivan for his personal commitment to Israel’s security and to the U.S. administration for the ongoing support and partnership.”

Sullivan was also scheduled to sit down with Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz.

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