Israel is showing more willingness to discuss plans for Gaza after the war, two US officials with direct knowledge of talks this week between the Israeli government and the Biden administration told Axios’ Barak Ravid on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden's team has been pressing Israel since the early stages of the war to make a plan for what will happen in Gaza after the conflict that began when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
The US wants to avoid a governing and security vacuum in Gaza after the war that might allow Hamas rise again, the US officials said.
In the talks this week with Vice President Kamala Harris' national security adviser, Phil Gordon, Israeli officials who had been focused on fighting the war were "ready to talk about the future" in Gaza, a senior US official said.
The administration also has expressed concern that Israel might continue its military ground operation in southern Gaza as it has in the northern part of the enclave.
Gordon, who is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week to discuss "day-after" scenarios and plans, is accompanied by Harris' Middle East adviser Ilan Goldenberg, who is deeply involved in the interagency planning about how Gaza would be governed after Hamas is ousted.
Harris' advisers met President Isaac Herzog, War Cabinet member Minister Benny Gantz, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, Minister Gadi Eizenkot, who is an observer in the war Cabinet, and opposition leader Yair Lapid, according to Axios.
The US officials said the group discussed military objectives and operations in Gaza.
"Gordon emphasized to the Israelis that Hamas is a barbaric terrorist organization and that no nation could accept the threat Hamas poses, and that we support Israel's legitimate military objectives and its right to defend itself," one of the US officials said.
The US officials said Gordon updated the Israelis about Harris' talks in Dubai with Arab leaders about what happens after the war ends in Gaza and presented what Harris publicly laid out for how the administration sees the reconstruction, security, and governance in Gaza after the fighting is over.
US officials want to "be there every week so that we are able to engage the Israelis and Palestinians face to face on the issue of the day-after," a third US official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Israel will have to maintain security control of Gaza after the war, in order to prevent terrorists from carrying out an attack similar to October 7.
He has also ruled out the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas, taking over Gaza after the war, noting that Abbas has in the past has denied the existence of the Holocaust and has failed to condemn the Hamas massacre.