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War on Gaza: Top Netanyahu adviser due in Washington after Israel rejects US post-war plan

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer expected to discuss new phase of Israeli offensive and arms shipments
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer attends a special session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on 29 December 2022 (AFP)

A close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington this week for talks with US officials amid a divergence between Israel and US President Joe Biden's administration over the intensity of the Israeli offensive and post-war plans for Gaza.

Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, a former US ambassador to Israel and adviser to Netanyahu, will meet with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and members of Congress, Axios reported, citing an unnamed Israeli official.

Dermer will outline Israel's plans for a "lower intensity" Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip which Israeli officials aim to start at the end of January, according to Axios.

The US has been publicly and privately calling on Israel to switch its tactics.

"What the administration would like to see is the kind of counter-insurgency that the US conducted in the early days of Afghanistan with elite units targeting Hamas with minimal further uprooting of civilians," Abbas Dahouk, a former senior military adviser at the State Department, who previously served as a military attache at the US embassy in Saudi Arabia, previously told Middle East Eye.

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"But it's unclear whether Israel has the capability or desire to switch tactics."

Dermer will also discuss concerns about the level of Israel's munitions stockpile and a delay in the delivery of munitions to Israel by the US.

The Biden administration has publicly said it is imposing no conditions on aid to Israel. Earlier this month, the White House even bypassed Congress to expedite the delivery of tank munitions to Israel.

But in recent weeks, Biden has publicly expressed frustration with Israel, saying the US's ally was losing support globally because it was carrying out an "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza.

Request for Apache helicopters rejected 

In its report, Axios implied there has been a delay in the shipment of munitions to Israel, but didn't detail how late the delivery was or the type of munitions.

Blinken reportedly told Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant that the delay was not politically motivated, with US officials citing "paperwork" issues.

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However, on Tuesday, Israeli media reported that the Biden administration had rejected Israel's request to purchase Apache attack helicopters to upgrade the fleet it is using in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and southern Lebanon.

Israel was eyeing new Boeing Apache helicopters months before the Gaza war erupted, according to an Israeli media report published in May. 

However, Tuesday's report comes as a growing number of lawmakers in the Democratic Party - including centrists - grow more critical of Israeli military tactics in Gaza.

'Pipe dream' 

Israel's plan for post-war Gaza governance is another topic that Dermer is expected to discuss with Biden administration officials.

While both the US and Israel don't want Hamas to govern the Gaza Strip, they are at odds over the  Palestinian Authority's return to the territory.

The Biden administration wants a reformed PA, which has limited governing power in the occupied West Bank, to return to Gaza. An Egyptian peace proposal has called for a transitional government to govern Gaza comprised of both Hamas and the PA.

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"The expectation that the Palestinian Authority will demilitarize Gaza is a pipe dream," Netanyahu said in an editorial published on Monday, which appeared to reject the Egyptian peace proposal and US demands.

Netanyahu also all but sketched out a future Israeli re-occupation of Gaza, saying Israel would retain "overriding security responsibility" in Gaza for "the foreseeable future".

He said that it would include temporary security zones "on the perimeter of Gaza" and greater Israeli control over the enclave's border crossing with Egypt. The US says it is opposed to Israel re-occupying Gaza.

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