• US officials have expressed doubt over Israel's ability to completely eliminate Hamas.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains firm on the goal to defeat Hamas.
  • President Biden has threatened to cut off weapon shipments if Israel assaults Rafah.

US government officials are skeptical Israel can actually achieve its goals and completely eliminate Hamas in Gaza.

"Sometimes when we listen closely to Israeli leaders, they talk about mostly the idea of some sort of sweeping victory on the battlefield, total victory," Deputy US Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told CNN at the NATO Youth Summit. "I don't think we believe that that is likely or possible."

When TV personality Phil McGraw, also known as Dr. Phil, asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview on May 9 whether Israel still plans on eliminating Hamas as its goal in the Israel-Hamas war, Netanyahu confirmed that this plan hasn't changed. He argued that "we have to achieve victory and that means that we have to destroy all these battalions, which we will."

Netanyahu has been adamant that in order to meet this goal and win the war, Israeli forces must assault Rafah, a densely populated city in southern Gaza where about one million Palestinian refugees have fled.

The US has provided Israel with support throughout its war, but President Joe Biden has warned that he would cut off weapon shipments to Israel if it moves forward with an attack on the city.

"Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers," Biden told CNN last week. "I made it clear that if they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem."

There is currently a Republican-led effort in Congress to force the provision of weapons shipments, but the White House is in firm opposition.

The current US view of what victory looks like in this war appears different than that of Israel. Other members of the Biden administration have weighed in on Israel's progress and plan to defeat Hamas.

"We're seeing parts of Gaza that Israel has cleared of Hamas where Hamas is coming back including in the north, including in Khan Younis," US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in an interview with CBS's Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

If the Israelis hit Rafah with a tough offensive, he predicts that "they may go in and have some initial success, but potentially at an incredibly high cost to civilians." And any success they have, he said will likely be "one that is not durable, one that is not sustainable."

"And they will be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency because a lot of armed Hamas will be left no matter what they do in Rafah," Blinken said. The alternative isn't much better though.

"If they leave and get out of Gaza, as we believe they need to do, then you're going to have a vacuum, and a vacuum that's likely to be filled by chaos, by anarchy, and ultimately by Hamas again," he said.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that ultimately, Israel will make its own decisions on strategy and how it will end the war.

"With the question of a strategic endgame, I don't think that's really a question about American influence," he said. "That's a question about Israel's strategy and what Israel chooses to do."

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