Senior Israeli Official Says US, European Countries Pushing Israel To Delay Ground Offensive

Senior Israeli Official Says US, European Countries Pushing Israel To Delay Ground Offensive

Oct. 21, 2023, 8:51 a.m.

In walk back, White House says Biden didn’t call for Israeli operation in Gaza to be delayed until more hostages freed, as he links Hamas assault to Israel-Saudi normalization push

Following Hamas’s release of two hostages from Gaza, the US and several governments in Europe are quietly pushing Israel to hold off on launching a ground invasion of Gaza, fearing that the incursion will all but scuttle efforts to secure additional hostage releases for the foreseeable future, a senior diplomatic official tells The Times of Israel.

The Western governments currently pressuring Israel each have citizens among those unaccounted for and believe that the more time that passes, the harder it will be to secure the hostages’ release, the official says.

The governments recognize that a ground invasion is very likely and are not telling Israel not to launch one at all, rather hold off to try and see if additional diplomatic efforts can succeed, says the senior diplomatic official.

The White House is now walking back US President Joe Biden’s earlier comment that Israel should delay its expected offensive in Gaza until more hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups are released.

While boarding Air Force One earlier, Biden was asked by a reporter whether Israel should push off a military operation in Gaza, to which he responded, “yes.”

“The president was far away. He didn’t hear the full question. The question sounded like ‘Would you like to see more hostages released?’ He wasn’t commenting on anything else,” White House spokesperson Ben LaBolt is quoted as saying by Reuters.

US President Joe Biden says at a campaign fundraiser, “one of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel… they knew that I was about to sit down with the Saudis.”

“Guess what the Saudis wanted to recognize Israel,” he says, offering details on US efforts to broker a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia that appear to have been put on hold following the October 7 Hamas onslaught.

Saudi Arabia has been very critical of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza over the past two weeks and US officials have acknowledged that the normalization effort is no longer their immediate focus, as they work to support Israel against Hamas.

Biden officials have suggested that scuttling the normalization effort may have been a motivation of Hamas but the president’s remarks appear the furthest anyone in his administration has gone to suggest a direct correlation.

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