Philip Gordon
Philip GordonRonen Topelberg

Dr. Philip H. Gordon, Assistant to the President of the United States and National Security Advisor to the Vice President of the United States, spoke Monday at the Herzliya Conference convened by the Reichman University.

He began by addressing the growing concerns regarding the Israel-US partnership: “We know the past eight and a half months have been an extraordinarily difficult time. There still aren’t words to describe what Israel went through on October 7. And we know that the war that was triggered by that attack has also had devastating consequences. Hezbollah attacks Israel regularly across the northern border and Israel is responding. It has been very challenging for the US-Israel partnership, and tested it perhaps as never before. It has been a profoundly tough time for all of us, but this relationship has faced difficulties, even crises, in the past, but we have survived all of them by working together. There’s no reason why this time needs to be different.”

Dr. Gordon also addressed the potential for a ceasefire deal. “Notwithstanding these momentous challenges, I think there are opportunities for a positive and more hopeful way forward for Israel, the US, and our strategic partnership. The path to this more hopeful future starts with a ceasefire deal, as spelled out by President Biden on May 31, which is based on Israel’s proposal. That proposal offers an opportunity to end the war in Gaza in a way such that Israel is secure, the hostages come home, Hamas no longer governs Gaza, and the Palestinians have a hopeful political horizon to statehood, living side by side at peace with Israel.”

“We know there are some in Israel who do not support this proposal. We simply disagree with that. A rejection of this deal would not bring about some undefined notion of 'total victory' — it would lead to endless conflict, draining Israel’s resources, contributing to its isolation on the world stage, and preventing the hostages from coming home. Implementation of the deal would bring the hostages home and open up the pathway for the more hopeful way forward.”

Gordon pointed out that many states around the world have rallied to support this proposal, but added, “It is now time for Hamas to accept the deal. By refusing to do so, Hamas is responsible for the ongoing suffering of so many Palestinians.” He also pointed out that Hamas is “in a way walking away from its own proposal,” as the current one is almost identical to one they themselves proposed at an earlier point.

Gordon continued, “We shouldn’t give up hope for getting to a deal. We’re continuing to work relentlessly to close the gaps. As Israel completes its operations in Rafah in the weeks ahead, and delivers on its promise to reduce civilian casualties and surge humanitarian assistance, it will deprive [Yahya] Sinwar of the death and destruction he cynically counts on for leverage against Israel. We need to make Sinwar realize that time is not on his side and that this deal is one he should accept.”

He also remarked on the other fronts facing Israel. “Implementing this deal would allow the people in Gaza to begin a process of recovery, but it would also increase the possibility of securing calm along Israel’s northern border and allow tens of thousands of Israelis to return to their homes. We’ve been working hard to deter Hezbollah. We believe de-escalation is necessary and possible now, but we also know that a ceasefire deal would put more pressure on Hezbollah to end its attacks.”

He promised that the US would continue to fight the Houthis: “The US will continue to degrade Houthi capabilities. A return to calm in Gaza would deny the Houthis their self-proclaimed justification for their ongoing attacks, as well as those of other Shia militia groups.”

A ceasefire, he claimed, would not only bring military calm to the region but advance diplomatic processes as well: “Calm in Gaza would open up the possibility for a historic normalization with Saudi Arabia, and ultimately the entire Muslim world. This would be a boon for the Israeli economy, and would make Israel safer, as it would be part of a regional security network to counter Iran. We saw potential of that in mid-April when Iran launched its attack on Israel – that episode it was a striking preview of what is possible when Israel becomes better integrated in the region.”

“The simple reality is that there is no enduring defeat of Hamas without a credible governance and security alternative in Gaza, as we in the US learned the hard way in our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. With an end to the fighting, we can create an international coalition to support Palestinian governance, rebuild Gaza, and ensure that Hamas cannot regain power.”

Gordon addressed the situation in Judea and Samaria as well. “I know it’s hard to think about peace negotiations in the current climate. I understand the mutual mistrust. The US is not asking Israel to sacrifice its security. But we shouldn’t give up on this ultimate goal, and we oppose steps that are counter-productive to peace, like settlement expansion and settler violence. The onus is not just on Israelis but also on the Palestinians, which is why we are engaging the new PA government to advance reforms to improve governance.”

He concluded by reiterating the USA's commitment to Israel: “We remain Israel’s strongest and best friend in the world, and Israel remains our closest ally in the Middle East. We hope that Israel embraces this hopeful path forward.”