Biden administration has ‘hard questions’ for Israel, says National Security Advisor

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says the Biden White House has ‘hard questions’ for Israel on humanitarian aid, scope and goals of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

A senior Biden administration official hinted the White House is pressing Israel on a number of key issues related to the ongoing counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip, dubbed “Operation Swords of Iron.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with CBS News on Sunday about the ongoing war between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Israel, including US efforts to extract both the American citizens taken captive by terrorists, and the hundreds of American citizens residing in the coastal enclave.

Alongside efforts to secure the release of the captives, Sullivan said the Biden administration is attempting to secure passage to Egypt for US citizens living in Gaza.

“Hamas is preventing their departure and making a series of demands. We’re trying to work through that to create a circumstance where all of the Americans who are in Gaza are able to get out. It is a priority for the President. He has no higher priority than their safe passage out. And he will continue to work at it until it is accomplished.”

Sullivan also said the US has been posing “hard questions” to Israel, pressing Jerusalem to reduce collateral damage and to specify what the “strategic objective” is of the operation.

“They have told us in broad terms that making sure that Hamas can never again threaten Israel in the way it threatened Israel before is their core strategic objective in this conflict. But in terms of what the specific milestones are, that is something that ultimately is up to Israel, this is their military operation, they will make that decision. And we will continue to ask the hard questions.”

“That’s a conversation we’ve been having. It’s a conversation we will continue to have in the days ahead.”

“There are a lot of complicated realities in this,” Sullivan continued, “a humanitarian pause would be a good thing to get hostages out.”

“But you can bet that Hamas will try to use that time to their advantage as well. These are the things that Israel is trying to grapple with. And these are also the hard questions that we are trying to pose to Israel as it works to prosecute a campaign against Hamas, while we press them to make sure to distinguish between Hamas and the Palestinian people who Hamas does not represent and the Palestinian people deserve to live lives of safety, dignity and equality.”

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When asked to respond to Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the new war cabinet who said Israel must ultimately place its own interests first, Sullivan again said the US have been working through “hard questions.”

“We have conversations like friends do on the hard questions that I talked about before, on issues associated with humanitarian aid, on distinguishing between terrorists and innocent civilians, on how Israel’s thinking through its military operation.”

“Those conversations happen multiple times a day, they happen between the President and the Prime Minister. They happen by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense myself, other senior members of our administration. We talk candidly, we talk directly, we share our views and an unvarnished way, and we will continue to do that.”