Israel-Hamas war, Gaza airstrikes, Blinken visit

Antony Blinken boards his aircraft plane as he departs Doha for Abu Dhabi on January 7. Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be the latest in a long parade of Biden national security officials to meet face to face with the Israeli government when he arrives in Tel Aviv this week for his fifth visit since the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Blinken’s meetings in Israel, one of nine stops on a frenetic, weeklong crisscrossing of the region, are part of what US officials say is a constant effort to stay in touch with — and in front of — Israeli officials in an attempt to keep Israel’s war machine in check as the conflict drags on.

“What happens is you get in a room and say, ‘This is what we need to see,’” a US official told CNN, noting that breakthroughs with Israel have typically occurred after a visit by Blinken or a call from President Joe Biden. Sometimes the Israelis agree with what the US says, the official said, and sometimes they don’t and negotiations ensue.

There are “at least a dozen live issues we are pushing for,” the official told CNN, including protecting Palestinian civilians amid a skyrocketing death toll as well as creating conditions to allow desperately needed aid to get where it is required most.

Shifts by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have been slow and incremental, and US officials have acknowledged that “gaps” remain between what they claim are Israel’s intentions and what has played out.

“We don’t tell Israel what to do, but at the same time, as close allies, these are tough conversations that you can only have as friends where you ask the hard questions,” a second US official told CNN. “You ask, ‘Well, what is your objective? What is your angle? How do you intend to achieve it? What do you think is realistic? Have you considered this, have you considered that?’”

The stakes of Blinken’s fifth trip are high as America’s allies that stood behind Israel at the start of the war have grown critical as the civilian toll in Gaza rises. Those partners will be looking for evidence Israel is listening to the US, and, as tensions skyrocket in the region, allies are hoping Blinken can ensure Israel has a viable plan to end the war amid concerns over a wider conflict.

Read more about Blinken’s visit.