update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Days after canceled Israeli delegation to DC, parties to reschedule Rafah talks

An Israeli government official told JNS that the Biden administration contacted Jerusalem to reschedule.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, holds a press briefing on Oct. 11, 2023. Credit: Oliver Contreras/White House.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, holds a press briefing on Oct. 11, 2023. Credit: Oliver Contreras/White House.

The White House contacted Israel to reschedule a ministerial-level delegation to Washington to discuss a potential military operation in Rafah, an Israeli government official told JNS on Wednesday.

Shortly thereafter, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said during the White House press briefing that “The Prime Minister’s Office has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah,” which she called “urgent.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that he was canceling the senior delegation to Washington after the United States abstained, rather than vetoed, a ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Security Council earlier in the day.

While the Israeli official told JNS that Washington initiated the request, multiple U.S. media outlets cited a U.S. official, who said that the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office contacted the White House, indicating that it would “like to” reschedule the meeting.

“The Prime Minister’s Office is in touch with us to reschedule. It’s likely to be fairly soon, but I don’t have a date to announce,” a U.S. official told Axios before Jean-Pierre formally announced the news.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and an Israel Defense Forces official had been slated to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for meetings with U.S. counterparts.

Washington had said the discussion would focus on alternatives to a military operation in Rafah, amid reports that Biden is considering conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves ahead with it.

However, after Washington abstained on a truce resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Monday, the Israeli government announced that “in light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will not depart.”

Netanyahu said that Biden’s move “hurts the war effort and the effort to release the hostages” by giving Hamas hope that international pressure will bring about a ceasefire without freeing the 134 remaining captives.

The premier told Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Wednesday that his decision to cancel Dermer and Hanegbi’s visit to Washington “was a message to Hamas: ‘Don’t bet on this pressure. It’s not going to work.'”

The final four Hamas battalions—with some 3,000 gunmen—are now concentrated in Rafah. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that all of the Hamas battalions must be defeated to prevent the terrorist organization from regrouping and reestablishing itself to threaten Israel again.

Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

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