Jake Sullivan and Benjamin Netanyahu
Jake Sullivan and Benjamin NetanyahuKobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“The two discussed the continuation of the fighting in Gaza, with emphasis on Rafah, the humanitarian assistance to the residents of the Gaza Strip, the contacts on the return of the hostages, and events in the northern sector,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

Also participating in the meeting were Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Council Director Tzahi Hanegbi and US Presidential Envoy and National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk.

After the meeting, an inter-agency dialogue – led by Strategic Affairs Minister Dermer and National Security Council Director Hanegbi – was held with the American delegation led by US National Security Advisor Sullivan.

The continuation of the war in Gaza, with emphasis on the activity in Rafah, and increasing the humanitarian effort in the Strip, were discussed at length, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The White House, in a readout following the meeting, noted that Sullivan had arrived in Israel from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, “where he held constructive meetings with the Crown Prince and Prime Minster of Saudi Arabia Mohamed bin Salman focused on a comprehensive vision for an integrated Middle East region. Mr. Sullivan briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team on these meetings and the potential that may now be available for Israel, as well as the Palestinian people.”

In Israel, the statement said, Sullivan “was briefed on Israeli military operations in Gaza, and the two sides discussed methods to ensure the defeat of Hamas while minimizing harm to civilians. Mr. Sullivan reiterated the President’s longstanding position on Rafah.”

“Mr. Sullivan proposed a series of concrete measures to ensure more aid surges into Gaza, including through all available crossings, and through the multinational humanitarian maritime corridor. Mr. Sullivan and his counterparts also discussed steps to build a more effective deconfliction mechanism to ensure humanitarian workers can safely deliver aid to those in need and establish fixed corridors inside Gaza to ensure aid is able to reach all those in need throughout Gaza,” the White House said.

“Mr. Sullivan briefed on U.S. support for Israeli efforts to find and bring to justice Hamas’s leaders in Gaza, as well as discussions with Egypt to fully secure its border with Rafah and to secure the continued flow of humanitarian assistance through Kerem Shalom, even as talks proceed on reopening the Rafah crossing. Mr. Sullivan reaffirmed the need for Israel to connect its military operations to a political strategy that can ensure the lasting defeat of Hamas, the release of all the hostages, and a better future for Gaza,” the statement concluded.

Sullivan last week spoke with his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi. The White House said after the meeting that the issue of an Israeli operation in the Gazan city of Rafah came up in the conversation, and that Sullivan “reiterated President Biden’s longstanding concerns over the potential for a major military ground operation into Rafah, where over one million people have taken shelter. He discussed alternative courses of action to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza.”

Hanegbi, said the statement, “confirmed that Israel is taking US concerns into account. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Hanegbi then reviewed the substantive discussions to date of the Strategic Consultative Group. They agreed to establish another in-person meeting soon.”

The US has long been vocal in its opposition to an Israeli operation in Rafah. Biden recently warned that he would halt shipments of American weapons to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah.

Speaking to CNN, Biden said that while the US would continue to provide defensive weapons to Israel, including for its Iron Dome air defense system, other shipments would end should a major ground invasion of Rafah begin.

On the Saudi-Israeli normalization efforts, the two countries appeared to be on track towards normalization before Hamas’ October 7 attack against Israel and the war in Gaza which followed.

Shortly after the start of the war in Gaza, sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia is putting the US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel on ice.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister later indicated that normalization with Israel requires both an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state, which Saudi officials have long insisted is a condition for normalization with Israel.

Recent reports said that the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia are finalizing an agreement for US security guarantees and civilian nuclear assistance.

Sullivan, however, made clear that the Biden administration would not sign a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia if the kingdom and Israel did not agree to normalize relations.