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Gantz meets with Biden officials amid Saudi normalization talk

National Unity Party head Benny Gantz held an unannounced meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington, D.C.

Then-Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the welcoming ceremony for U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, July 13, 2022. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
Then-Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the welcoming ceremony for U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, July 13, 2022. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.

Israel’s National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz paid a visit to Washington, D.C., this week for meetings with top Biden administration officials, the opposition politician revealed on Thursday.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Gantz confirmed he met with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Wednesday, while Hebrew press reported that he also sat down with other senior officials.

“In the meeting [with Sullivan], we discussed advancing the vital security interests of the State of Israel, the broadening of Israel’s integration into the region, and confronting threats posed by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” wrote Gantz.

Gantz’s office did not announce the U.S. trip in advance. In many cases, parliamentary regulations require that the Ethics Committee approve Knesset members’ foreign travels.

While Gantz’s statement did not mention the normalization talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia explicitly, local media suggested his visit could mean that an agreement between the two countries, seen as increasingly likely in the coming months, is indeed in the offing.

On Friday, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Jerusalem and Riyadh have agreed on the contours of a possible U.S.-mediated normalization agreement.

“All sides have hammered out, I think, a basic framework for what, you know, what we might be able to drive at,” he said, amid an ongoing effort to bring the Sunni kingdom into the Abraham Accords.

In June, Gantz’s 12-seat National Unity Party signaled its willingness to support an Israel-Saudi deal from the opposition.

“I think that peace is always a good trend for the State of Israel, and if it needed my backup for that, it will get my backup for that, but I will not get into this government,” Gantz, speaking in English, told attendees at an event organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Last month, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid also traveled to Washington for meetings with senior U.S. officials.

The Yesh Atid Party chief, who served as interim prime minister and as foreign minister in the previous government, met with Biden administration officials, members of Congress and Jewish community leaders during the one-day visit.

U.S. officials reportedly brought up the normalization process with Saudi Arabia during the meetings. Riyadh has requested American help for a Saudi civilian nuclear program in exchange for ties with Israel, a demand that Lapid has publicly opposed.

“I am very much in favor of a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia,” he said during a TV interview earlier in August, before adding, “But not at the expense of uranium enrichment that would endanger Israel’s security.”

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