A senior White House official on Sunday sought to distance the Biden administration from potential political fallout stemming from the damning revelation that Israeli intelligence agencies discovered plans by Hamas to carry out an attack like the one that the group successfully launches on 7 October but dismissed them as implausible.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC’s Meet the Press that US intelligence agencies had determined that they had not received or otherwise had knowledge of the documents detailing the attack which The New York Times reports Israel’s government had in its possession for a year.
“The intelligence community has indicated that they did not have access to this document. That there’s no indications at this time that they had any access to this document beforehand,” Mr Kirby said.
“Should they have?” NBC’s Kristin Welker asked. “Given how closely US and Israeli intelligence officials coordinate and are supposed to coordinate intelligence?”
“Intelligence is a mosaic and sometimes you know you can fashion things together and get a pretty good picture. Other times, you know that there’s pieces of the puzzle that are missing,” he responded. “As I said, our own intelligence community said that they’ve looked at this. They have no indications at this time that they had any advance warning of this document or any knowledge of it.”
While adding that the Israeli government “need[s]” to investigate how it was caught so off-guard by the Hamas incursion on 7 October, he agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that such an assessment can wait until after the war.
The Israeli military’s efforts against Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip have translated into a staggering bombing campaign and ground invasion which is thought to have killed more than 14,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thousands of those victims are children.
At home, the Biden administration’s full-throated support for Israel has been a target of both praise and criticism for the president. Conservatives and older Democrats have commended Mr Biden for standing beside a close American ally in the Middle East, while the president’s critics among younger generations have maintained that Mr Biden is appeasing a rightwing Israeli government and should instead call for a permanent ceasefire to stop the number of civilian deaths from climbing even higher.
Polls indicate that the president is losing enthusiasm and goodwill among key demographics in his voting coalition, with his handling of the war being a key reason. White House officials have sought to stem that bleeding of support (to little avail) with repeated assurances that the Israeli government is listening to outreach urging its military to avoid unnecessary civilian deaths.