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Biden speaks with Netanyahu - says Israel needs credible plan for civilians in Rafah before entering

President affirmed continued US support for Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday, their first phone call since Jan 19, where they discussed negotiations on a hostage release deal and Israel’s expected ground operation in Rafah. 

“The President reaffirmed our shared goal to see Hamas defeated and to ensure the long-term security of Israel and its people. The President and the Prime Minister discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden reportedly told Netanyahu it is time to “capitalize” on “progress made in the negotiations.” 

The Biden administration has expressed serious concerns about Israel’s intention to move its operations into Rafah, where over one million people are currently sheltering. 

Over the last several months, the U.S. and several European countries have attempted to pressure Israel to implement a “humanitarian pause” to allow more humanitarian aid to Gaza's civilian population, and to better assess the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. 

So far, Israel has resisted such calls, believing that any respite would primarily benefit the Hamas terror organization.

According to Biden administration officials, about two-thirds of the 45-minute phone call was related to renewed hostage negotiation efforts, with much of the rest focusing on the war effort. 

Biden “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there,” according to the readout of the call.

In Netanyahu's interview with ABC News, which aired on Sunday, the prime minister said Israel would proceed with the Rafah operation “while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave.” He also said that those calling for Israel not to enter Rafah want Israel to lose

“Whoever tells us not to operate in Rafah is actually calling on us to lose the war and leave Hamas there,” Netanyahu stated in the interview.  

In another interview, with Fox News, premier did not offer specifics regarding where the civilians would be moved to, stating, “We have cleared out and conquered and destroyed most of the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the rest of the Gaza Strip. So now, there's plenty of room north of Rafah for them to go to.” 

Last week, Netanyahu said the IDF would “soon go into Rafah, Hamas’ last bastion.” 

At the time, Biden called Israel’s response against Hamas “over the top.” A senior U.S. official stated at the time, “We have made very clear that an operation under current conditions is not something that we could envision.” 

Some analysts suggest that Biden is mainly concerned about losing the support of younger Democrat voters, who are generally not supportive of Israel. They expect Biden to express more vocal criticism as his campaign ramps up. 

Meanwhile, Israel announced early Monday morning that it had rescued two hostages in Rafah in a daring overnight military operation.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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