update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli embassy told not to handle Gantz’s unauthorized DC visit

Netanyahu is angered by the War Cabinet minister's trip to Washington, telling him that "there is only one prime minister."

Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz speaks to reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz speaks to reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

The Israeli embassy in Washington has been instructed not to handle a visit to the U.S. capital by War Cabinet member Benny Gantz.

The National Unity Party leader and minister-without-portfolio is arriving on Sunday ahead of meetings with senior Biden administration officials in the unauthorized trip that was not given the green-light by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gantz informed Netanyahu of his intention to fly to Washington for a series of meetings and asked for coordination.

A source close to Netanyahu confirmed to Ynet that he “made it clear to Minister Gantz that the State of Israel only has one prime minister,” adding that the trip preparations did not follow proper procedures mandating “every minister to clear travel in advance with the prime minister, including approval of the travel plan.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, was instructed to not take part in Gantz’s visit, which will reportedly include meetings on Monday with Vice President Kamala Harris and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The 64-year-old former defense minister and IDF chief of staff is also expected to meet with Democratic and Republican members of Congress and with senior AIPAC leaders, before heading to Britain on Wednesday for another diplomatic visit and then returning to Israel.

A source told Ynet that there have been attempts to set up a meeting between Gantz and President Joe Biden, with a possibility discussed that Biden will enter one of Gantz’s planned meetings at the White House.

Gantz is Netanyahu’s main political rival, with polling showing a close contest for prime minister should early elections be held.

According to Kan News, the D.C. diplomatic swing’s goals include strengthening the U.S.-Israel strategic alliance, preserving the legitimacy of the Gaza ground operation to defeat Hamas amid increasing calls for a ceasefire and an end to the war, and promoting a security agreement with Lebanon that would push Hezbollah away from the border and prevent a wider war.

In addition, Gantz will discuss the U.S. putting increasing pressure on mediators to reach a hostage deal within the parameters discussed at the recent Paris summit and normalization with Arab countries in the context of replacing the Hamas terrorist group in governing Gaza.

Furthermore, Gantz is expected to press for continued American aid for Israel’s security, which is being held up by partisanship on Capitol Hill.

Since the government did not approve the visit, it will be financed by Gantz’s political party, although he will have security guards.

“Mr. Gantz, your entry into the government was to create unity in an emergency, not to be a Trojan horse. Your trip this morning to the United States is in complete violation of the regulations of the government (you are the one who always cries that agreements are violated),” wrote Regional Cooperation Minister Dudi Amsalem on Sunday morning.

“The Americans probably see you as the addressee to lead the process of a Palestinian state and the cessation of fighting in Gaza. To remind you, you entered the emergency government to create a consensus during the war—not to stop the IDF from winning the war and create an opportunity to lead a process of the establishment of a Palestinian state that will eliminate the State of Israel!” the Likud minister continued.

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