️U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will arrive in Israel on Monday at the invitation of his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, Ynet reported on Tuesday.
The visit comes amid reports that the Biden administration is pressuring Israel to shift tactics in its war against Hamas in Gaza, from an intensive ground, aerial and naval campaign to targeted attacks on terror leaders.
According to the Ynet report, Austin is not expected to call for a ceasefire, but wants to know where the war is heading during Israel’s third phase of ground operations in Gaza, and also to get an update on the northern front against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The United States reportedly wants to prevent a regional war and is opposed to more intensive Israeli responses in Lebanon and also to Israeli strikes against the Houthis in Yemen. However, Israel has reportedly told the Americans that it will have to act against the Houthis if the United States does not deal with the threat in the Red Sea.
Washington also wants more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and to limit civilian casualties.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is expected to visit Israel this Thursday. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel last week.
President Joe Biden expressed support for Israel during a Chanukah ceremony at the White House on Monday night.
“The warmth and connection I feel with the Jewish community cannot be disputed. I got into trouble and criticism when I said a few years ago that you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist,” said Biden.
“I said after the Oct. 7 attack that my commitment to Israel was unquestionable. If there was no Israel, no Jew in the world would be protected,” he added.
Regarding the war, Biden said, “We will continue to provide military aid to Israel until we get rid of Hamas, but we have to be careful. The public opinion of the whole world can change overnight.”
With regard to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said, “Make no mistake, I had disagreements with some of the Israeli leadership. I have known Netanyahu for 51 years. There is a picture on his desk, of me with him, when he worked here in the foreign service and I was a 32-year-old senator. I wrote to him above ‘Bibi, I love you, but I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.’ It’s about the same today. It’s a tough spot.”