Antony Blinken and Benjamin Netanyahu
Antony Blinken and Benjamin NetanyahuDavid Azagury, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday reiterated that the Biden administration opposes an Israeli operation in Rafah.

Speaking to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport at the conclusion of his visit to Israel, Blinken said, “We share Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas, which is responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And we share the goal of ensuring Israel’s long-term security. As we’ve said, though, a major military ground operation in Rafah is not the way to do it.”

The Secretary of State said that such an operation “risks killing more civilians, it risks wreaking greater havoc with the provision of humanitarian assistance, it risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing.”

“So we’re looking forward to having Israeli officials in Washington next week to talk about a different way of achieving these objectives, objectives that we share, of defeating Hamas and ensuring Israel’s long-term security. It really requires an integrated humanitarian, military, and political plan. And as I said, we’ll be talking about that next week, going through the details of what we see as the best way forward,” said Blinken.

During his brief visit to Israel, Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said after the meeting, "I met with Secretary of State Blinken. I told him that I greatly appreciate the fact that for more than five months we have been standing together in the war against Hamas.”

“I also told him that we recognize the need to evacuate the civilian population from the combat zones and – of course – also see to the humanitarian needs, and we are working to this end,” added Netanyahu.

“I also said that we have no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah and eliminating the remnant of the battalions there. I told him that I hope we would do this with US support but if necessary – we will do it alone,” concluded Netanyahu.

The US administration has long said it is opposed to an Israeli operation in Rafah. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden spoke to Netanyahu and said after the phone call, “I continued to affirm that Israel has a right to go after Hamas, a group of terrorists responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And I reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire as part of a deal to free hostages, lasting several weeks, so we can get hostages home and surge aid to civilians in Gaza.”

“I asked the Prime Minister to send a team to Washington to discuss ways to target Hamas without a major ground operation in Rafah,” concluded Biden.

In a recent interview on MSNBC, Biden said that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a red line but also said in the same breath that crossing it would not result in punitive measures against Israel.

The White House later attempted to walk back Biden’s comments. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, “The President didn't make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements. The red line came up in a question he was responding to that question. I think he gave a full answer to it.”