Why US and Israel are diverging on war in Gaza, and what comes after

Just over a month into the war in Gaza, differences between the United States and Israel are widening on key elements of the war. This is not to say President Joe Biden’s support for Israel is wavering. Rather, his administration’s disapproval of the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting the war is growing.

It was only a matter of time before the U.S.-Israel embrace started loosening, analysts say, given that Israel is laser-focused on its goal of “destroying” Hamas, while the U.S. is balancing its commitment to Israel against its broader interests in the region.

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Differences are emerging between the U.S. and Israel on the war in Gaza. Washington increasingly is focused on how a postwar Gaza should be governed, while Israel is fixated on its immediate aims. The clock is not in Israel’s favor.

Yet while differences between the allies on strategy were to be expected, some analysts say, more worrisome are the divides on core postwar issues – including Palestinian governance. Those issues are unlikely to be addressed to Washington’s satisfaction by the current Israeli government, some Israeli experts say.

The U.S.-Israel relationship “is facing two clusters of differences, the first being inevitable disagreements over how to run the military campaign,” says Nimrod Novik, former foreign policy adviser to the late Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

“But I’m more concerned with the second cluster, which is far from inevitable but which derives from internal Israeli politics,” adds Mr. Novik. “In this moment of national crisis, this is simply intolerable.”

The tight embrace between Israel and the United States in the wake of the brutal Hamas attack on Oct. 7 is starting to loosen.

Just over a month into Israel’s military campaign in Gaza aimed at rooting out the militant Islamist organization Hamas, differences between the two allies are widening on key elements of the war, from humanitarian accommodations in the fighting and protection for hospitals to what Israel’s endgame should look like.

This is not to say that President Joe Biden’s support for Israel is wavering. Rather, the Biden administration’s unease and indeed disapproval of the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting the war – and other aspects of Israeli governance of keen interest to the U.S., including the broader Palestinian issue – are growing.

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Differences are emerging between the U.S. and Israel on the war in Gaza. Washington increasingly is focused on how a postwar Gaza should be governed, while Israel is fixated on its immediate aims. The clock is not in Israel’s favor.

Alarm bells sounded in the Biden White House when Mr. Netanyahu hinted last week that Israel envisions remaining in Gaza for an “indefinite period” after the fighting ends.

On Friday the Israeli leader went further, telling journalists, “We will have total security control, with the ability to enter whenever we want to eliminate any terrorists who reemerge.”

This took everyone from President Biden on down by surprise, as it followed stark warnings from a range of administration officials that any semblance of Israeli reoccupation of the Palestinian territory must be avoided – not least for the impact such a step would have across the Middle East.