Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political-security cabinet on Wednesday evening confirmed the shipment of 120,000 liters (30,000 gallons) of fuel to the Gaza Strip on Thursday. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich voted against the decision. In addition, about 60,000 liters (15,000 gallons) of diesel fuel entered the Strip on Wednesday, the same amount that entered each day during the ceasefire and the hostage exchange.
NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said in a briefing to journalists on Wednesday that on the one hand, the US is helping Israel from a security point of view in its war with Hamas, and at the same time is working with regional partners to continue the flow of humanitarian aid into the interior of the Gaza Strip. Kirby pointed out that the US is in talks with officials in Israel to ensure that they would try to minimize the harm to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Biden administration sent a message to Israel demanding that the amount of fuel entering the Strip be increased “now.” Both messages – limit harm to civilians and triple daily fuel shipments – were conveyed in conversations between senior White House officials and their Israeli counterparts.
For his part, Netanyahu told his cabinet the additional fuel shipments would be “minimal,” adding that they are vital to preventing a humanitarian collapse and the outbreak of epidemics in the southern Gaza Strip.
Minister Ben Gvir criticized the cabinet’s decision, saying: “In order to defeat Hamas, we must get off the conceptzia. This fuel is being used by Hamas. A few weeks ago, we said that one drop won’t be let in, and suddenly the red line is moved?”
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Adviser, is expected to return to the region next week. Sullivan is Biden’s point man with Israel regarding the continuation of the fighting. Israel’s political echelon and the security establishment are not expecting the Americans to present Israel with an ultimatum on Gaza before the mission of completely toppling Hamas is completed. Biden apparently believes that the IDF should be allowed to exhaust the military action in the Khan Yunis area and exert increasing pressure on Hamas in the hope of deflating the organization’s leadership will to continue fighting.
The administration is likely to permit Israel to continue its Gaza campaign through most of January 2024, provided that the IDF continues to avoid the mass killing of civilians, and facilitates the flow of humanitarian aid.
In a sense, the Biden White House has determined the price for letting the war in Gaza continue, and on Wednesday evening Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to pay.