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“White House At The Crossroads On Israel-Gaza: Internal Divisions Stirring Up Conflict

The White House is grappling with internal divisions over how to respond to the mounting tensions between Israel and the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The most visible disagreement between senior administration officials was on the question of whether to designate as terrorists the political wings of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, two of the major figures behind the recent fighting. President Joe Biden has opposed doing so, a position backed by other senior U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan both support the designation, arguing that it could leverage more pressure on Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, as well as help build a stronger coalition to respond to the conflict. The fractures within the White House on the issue come as the 11-day exchange of fire between Hamas and Israeli forces continues to escalate. Efforts to broker a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, with Israel continuing to launch airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The intra-White House divisions are a reflection of the complexities of the conflict, which many argue has no simple solution. Critics of the Biden administration’s approach argue it has failed to adequately address the long-term causes of the conflict, such as restrictions on the freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, or the lack of economic opportunities in the area. That said, the U.S. is not alone in its internal disagreements. Israel’s intelligence minister, Eli Cohen, said on May 10 that some within the Israeli government oppose making a ceasefire and are pushing, instead, for a comprehensive agreement with Hamas that includes addressing the underlying economic and political issues. The White House may soon have to address the divisions between its members on the issue. So far, Biden has managed to avoid wading into them and has instead focused on finding a way to end the fighting. Still, the internal disagreements on how to do so could prove to be a major challenge for the Biden administration as it attempts to resolve the escalating conflict.