Joe Biden on Thursday gave Israel’s leaders U.S. approval to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, according to a report.
Biden spent seven and a half hours in Tel Aviv on Thursday, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies.
The U.S. president told Netanyahu that he was ‘fully in support’ of Israel’s plans to invade Gaza to ‘eradicate Hamas’, according to The Times of London.
Benny Gantz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff who has joined his rival Netanyahu’s war cabinet, warned Biden that the incursion could take ‘years’, Axios reported.
Biden spoke to reporters on his way back from Israel, on Air Force One, but did not confirm the United States’ support for the invasion. The White House has not commented.
Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, are pictured in Tel Aviv on Wednesday
Israeli troops are pictured positioned along the border with Gaza on Wednesday
An Israeli soldier is seen patrolling the Israel-Gaza border on Wednesday
Biden is seen on Wednesday speaking to reporters on Air Force One, en route back from Israel. The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, are seen standing behind him
Sources told The Times that Biden urged Israel to show restraint when it goes in to Gaza, and demanded that Israel allow humanitarian aid from Egypt into the devastated enclave.
Biden called Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, from Air Force One as he was flying home to confirm the agreement, and publicly thanked Sisi when he spoke to reporters on the plane.
Sisi ‘deserves a lot of credit’ for allowing in humanitarian aid, Biden said.
‘He was completely cooperative,’ Biden said, adding he ‘stepped up – as did Bibi.’
Twenty trucks full of aid will be allowed to pass from Egypt into Gaza. The shipments will likely begin on Friday, The Times reported, because the road in has been bombed and needs repairs before the trucks can pass.
Biden said the U.N. will be in charge of distributing aid inside Gaza, and there may be a second shipment if the first goes well.
‘If Hamas confiscates them or doesn’t let it get through, then it’s going to end,’ Biden said.
His administration has been taking questions for days about how to provide humanitarian corridors for Palestinian residents of Gaza to flee amid an Israeli evacuation order.
‘We’re going to get people out,’ he said, having discussed the issue with Netanyahu on his trip, as well as getting in humanitarian relief.
‘I was very blunt about the need to get humanitarian aid to Gaza.’
There was no word on what would happen in Gaza after the Israeli invasion, and Biden did not mention to reporters any discussions about the future of the enclave.
Biden privately asked Israeli officials what they intended to do with Gaza after the invasion, Axios reported.
The Israelis replied that they had not yet decided, and were still working on the initial push.
Biden publicly urged Israelis not to be ‘consumed’ by rage, and to think with ‘clarity about objectives.’
He stressed that Israel should not make the same mistakes as the United States did after the September 11 attacks – an apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, following 9/11.
Israeli officials are concerned about keeping the international community on their side, Axios reported, and have been vague in public about what will happen to Gaza.
Eli Cohen, the foreign minister, suggested to Army Radio that Israel was planning to reduce Gaza’s geographical size, The Times reported.
‘At the end of this war, not only will Hamas no longer be in Gaza, but the territory of Gaza will also decrease,’ he said.
Biden’s team is happy that Netanyahu has bought his political opponents Benny Gantz and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot into the war cabinet, Axios reported.
Gantz told Biden the effort to dismantle Hamas ‘could take years,’ according to Axios sources.
Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, told Biden that ‘it will be a long and difficult war, and Israel will need U.S. support for a long period of time,’ an aide to Gallant said.
Biden did not push back, but stressed again the importance of allowing humanitarian aid to Gaza and avoiding inflaming tensions.
In particular, Biden is concerned about the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group, based in Lebanon, getting involved.
White House officials have been in contact with Hezbollah figures, Axios reported, urging them to stand down.
Hezbollah has said it will stand with Hamas.
The Pentagon has sent two aircraft carriers to the region, the USS Gerald Ford, and the USS Dwight Eisenhower.
White House officials have held several meetings to prepare for a scenario of using U.S. military force if Hezbollah were to launch missiles at Israel, Axios said.