White House ‘very disappointed’ after Netanyahu cancels delegation last minute

The Israeli PM cancelled an Israeli trip to Washington to discuss the Rafah ground operation


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Galant attend vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 ???? ????? ????? ?????? ???? ???? ?? ??????? ??? ?????? ?????? ??????

(JNS) The Biden administration has said they were “disappointed” that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a delegation to Washington at the last minute.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration was “very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington, DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” Kirby told reporters.

Israel decided to cancel the ministerial visit after Washington abstained on, rather than vetoing, a ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council on Monday.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi had been scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for meetings with US counterparts to discuss Israel’s plans for a military operation in southern Gaza. Kirby said the officials would discuss proposals for “viable options and alternatives to a major ground offensive.”

Following Monday’s vote, Jerusalem announced that “in light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will not depart.”

Kirby denied a shift in US policy in abstaining from the nonbinding ceasefire resolution. There is no reason for there to be an escalation of tensions between America and Israel, he said.

“Nothing has changed about our policy—nothing,” Kirby said. “We still want to see a ceasefire, and we still want to get hostages out—all of them. And we would still want to see more humanitarian assistance get in to the people of Gaza. The reason we abstained is because this resolution text did not condemn Hamas.”

Kirby also denied that there has been a change in the way the Biden administration talks about the potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, from asking to see a “credible plan” to rejecting the operation outright.

“We said weeks ago that we believe a major ground operation in Rafah would be a disaster, absent any proper accounting for the safety and security of the refugees that are still there,” Kirby said. “We still believe the same thing.”

“I don’t see any change in the rhetoric,” he said. “We don’t support a ground operation into Rafah.”

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