sullivan says

Jake Sullivan affirms U.S. commitment to full removal of Hamas from power in Gaza

The White House national security advisor indicated that the U.S. is pursuing Hamas’ removal through a multi-stage cease-fire deal

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing after U.S. President Joe Biden gave remarks on the terrorist attacks in Israel at the White House October 10, 2023 in Washington, DC.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the administration remains committed to seeing Hamas removed from power in Gaza, a goal he said Washington aims to accomplish through a cease-fire agreement and new political arrangement in Gaza.

Asked at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, D.C., whether the administration still seeks to remove Hamas fully from power, Sullivan answered in the affirmative. President Joe Biden “explicitly said that the path forward is a Gaza where Hamas is no longer in power,” Sullivan continued.

The administration’s views on the subject have become somewhat muddled after Biden declared that Israel had already largely accomplished its objectives by degrading Hamas’ ability to conduct another attack akin to the one that took place on Oct. 7, without fully addressing Hamas’ future in Gaza — ambiguity that other officials have echoed in recent days.

Sullivan said that, working through the three phases of a cease-fire deal that Biden laid out, “we can end up with an interim security enterprise and interim governance enterprise that can lead to a Gaza that is no longer a platform for terror.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel won’t agree to a permanent cease-fire prior to “the destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities… and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.”

Sullivan further suggested that a cease-fire deal in Gaza could produce “calm in Lebanon” and a “diplomatic arrangement” that would allow the tens of thousands of Israelis evacuated from their homes in the northern part of the country to return home.

Sullivan also said that Arab states could be willing to play a “significant role in both stabilizing and reconstructing” Gaza and “begin down a pathway” of normalization with Israel.

“That work could begin in the days, literally, the days that followed that deal coming together,” Sullivan said.

He didn’t speculate on the chances of Israeli-Saudi normalization before the November election — which many in Washington had characterized as a critical window — but said that the administration would “walk down that path as rapidly as we can” on a bipartisan basis.

Pressed on the administration’s growing criticism of and breaks with Israel, Sullivan insisted, “anyone who thinks they’re going to effectively drive a wedge between the president and Israel on the core question of Israel’s security — they have another thing coming.” He said the disagreements have been over “tactical” and “operational” issues the U.S. thinks are in Israel’s interest.

He asserted that the administration has not taken any action in the United Nations Security Council that would be “inconsistent with our policy” or would “create any challenges for Israel to continue to do what it felt it needed to do to defeat Hamas.”

Sullivan said that the administration would not “back off… one inch” from its position in support of Israel’s efforts to combat Hamas, rescue hostages and kill terrorist leaders, “but we will also speak out when we have concerns,” noting that “Israel and Israeli leaders have no problem speaking out about the United States when they have concerns with things that we do.”

Asked about Israeli skepticism toward a two-state solution in the wake of Oct. 7, Sullivan said that the U.S. is working to address those concerns, but also characterized the U.S. push for a two-state solution as predating the Oct. 7 attack and as part of a “vision of normalization and integration for this region.” 

He emphasized that regional integration would be a key opportunity to counter the core regional threat of Iran, but that it’s contingent on “the ability of Israel to work on a negotiated basis… over time towards a Palestinian state.”

Sullivan said a Palestinian state cannot be unilaterally recognized or imposed, and must include conditions to ensure Israel’s security.

He further asserted that the administration “is prepared to take a whole rance of action,” including military action, “to push back against Iranian aggression in every theater.”

Sullivan’s appearance got off to a dramatic start, as anti-Israel demonstrators burst onto the stage and sought to seize the podium, but were promptly drowned out by a chant of “Am Yisrael Chai” from the crowd. Sullivan received a standing ovation.

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