“I do think it’d be important to have some kind of multinational force in Gaza as a transition to whatever comes next,” he continued.
Hamas, the militant group that killed 1,4000 people in Israel on Oct. 7, has ruled Gaza for more than 15 years. Israel launched a retaliatory military operation after the attack to end Hamas’ rule, including a massive bombing campaign, ground invasion and siege that has killed more than 8,000 people.
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bloomberg News first reported that the United States and Israel were in discussions about establishing a peacekeeping force to maintain order in the enclave. In a statement to Bloomberg, NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson denied that “sending U.S. troops” to be part of the coalition was under discussion.
Blumenthal said the congressional delegation that he traveled with to Israel last month discussed the possibility of having Saudi Arabian troops in the force. He noted, however, that he hadn’t heard of U.S. troops heading to Gaza as part of the deliberations.
“There certainly has been discussion with the Saudi about their being part of some international peacekeeping force if only to provide resources, and, longer term, supporting Palestinian leadership and a separate state, obviously. Reconstruction of Gaza will require a vast amount of resources, which the Saudis potentially could help provide,” he said.
“I’m not sure how active the conversation is about U.S. troops,” Blumenthal continued. “I would think that maybe an international force could be mustered without U.S. troops.”
During a Tuesday Senate hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers that the administration’s preference was for the Palestinian Authority to lead Gaza after Hamas’ fall, if possible. Barring that, “there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region. It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance,” he said.
The lawmakers’ comments make clear that there’s an appetite in Congress for such a force, making life easier for President Joe Biden to negotiate its establishment with allies and partners. Any indication of U.S.-troop involvement, though, might lead to a collapse of talks.
The war in Gaza only escalated since Israeli troops entered the coastal enclave. They have encircled a main population center, Gaza City, and intensified airstrikes. Outrage has grown regionally after Israel bombed a refugee camp to kill senior Hamas leadership in the area, the country’s military acknowledged. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel over the ground operation.
Israel rejects growing international demands for a ceasefire in the conflict, and the United States supports Israel’s position. However, U.S. officials have called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow, among other things, aid to reach civilians.
An Israeli official told POLITICO on Wednesday morning that the country “is willing to discuss a humanitarian pause of a few hours.” A cease-fire is still off the table, added the official.