Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu
Joe Biden and Benjamin NetanyahuHaim Zach/GPO

The Biden administration is laying the groundwork with other Israeli leaders in anticipation of a post-Netanyahu government, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

The report said that the Biden administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisions over Israel’s handling of the war with Hamas, as well as Netanyahu’s refusal to consider US proposals for a post-war Gaza, have only become more pronounced since Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s most recent visit to Israel.

Administration officials told NBC News that the Secretary of State returned to Washington having been rebuffed by Netanyahu on all but one of the administration’s requests, an understanding that Israel would not attack Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Blinken’s major achievement on the trip, the report added, was getting a commitment from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and four other Arab leaders to help rebuild Gaza after the war.

The Arab leaders also agreed to support a new, reformed Palestinian Arab government to secure Gaza, the officials said. The Saudi crown prince offered to normalize relations with Israel as part of a Gaza reconstruction agreement but only if Netanyahu agrees to provide Palestinian Arabs with a pathway to statehood, the officials said.

Netanyahu rejected the offer, officials told NBC News, telling Blinken that he’s not prepared to make a deal that allows for a Palestinian state. As a result, three senior US officials said, the Biden administration is looking past Netanyahu to try to achieve its goals in the region. Several senior US officials told NBC News that Netanyahu “will not be there forever.”

The officials said the Biden administration is trying to lay the groundwork with other Israeli and civil society leaders in anticipation of an eventual post-Netanyahu government. In an attempt to work around Netanyahu, Blinken also met individually with members of his War Cabinet and other Israeli leaders, including opposition leader Yair Lapid.

The senior US officials also said that Blinken deliberately began last week’s trip to the Middle East by visiting the Arab nations, rather than Israel, in order to bring Netanyahu a unified Arab post-war proposal.

A source familiar with the discussions between Blinken and Netanyahu acknowledged “the ball is in the Prime Minister’s court” but cautioned that the Israeli government’s current position on the Arab leaders’ proposal, including the Saudi deal, may not hold.

“I’d be careful about assuming that Israel will scuttle the deal. Assuming Hamas is no longer in Gaza after the war and the Saudis and other moderate Arabs would invest in Gaza and normalize relations with Israel, it would be a game changer,” the source stated.