newsU.S.-Israel Relations

PMO mum on report US nixed high-level meeting on Iran

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will reportedly still meet his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, who was already en route to Washington.

From left: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi gather in Tel Aviv to discuss the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO.
From left: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi gather in Tel Aviv to discuss the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday declined to comment on reports that a high-level meeting with U.S. officials was canceled after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Biden administration for withholding arms from the Jewish state.

According to Axios, the White House informed Israel on Tuesday that the scheduled “strategic dialogue” in Washington would not take place. The outlet cited two U.S. officials who claimed the move came in response to Netanyahu’s public criticism of the administration over its “inconceivable” arms embargo.

In a video published to his X account on Tuesday afternoon, the premier said he had told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the latter’s visit to the region last week that while he “deeply appreciated” President Joe Biden’s support in the war against Hamas, Jerusalem was perplexed by the decision to halt some military aid as “America’s closest ally [is] fighting for its life.”

While the PMO had no comment on the Axios report, the outlet cited one Israeli official who confirmed that the White House notified Jerusalem regarding the cancellation of the meeting.

The dialogue session on Iran, which was to have included meetings with officials from the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies, along with their Israeli counterparts, was reportedly called off as some Israeli officials were already en route to Washington.

One U.S. official cited by Axios on Wednesday claimed that the meeting was postponed rather than canceled, due to a “scheduling issue.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will reportedly still meet his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, who was already en route. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is still scheduled to visit early next week.

Netanyahu told Blinken during a meeting on June 10 that Washington had effectively suspended all aid to the IDF amid the war in Gaza and the looming escalation with Hezbollah in the north, Israeli and foreign media reported just hours before Netanyahu released the clip.

Washington’s top diplomat then promised Netanyahu that the U.S. would resume all arms shipments “in the coming days,” reports added.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that two key Democratic lawmakers signed off on a major arms sale to Israel following pressure from the Biden administration, after holding up the deal for months.

The news came as intense combat operations against Hamas in Gaza are winding down with most of the terrorist organization’s battalions dismantled, and shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to try and force the White House to provide the delayed military aid.

Last month, U.S. officials confirmed a decision to withhold the delivery of thousands of bombs to Israel amid concerns that the Israel Defense Forces would use them in the Hamas stronghold of Rafah.

The announcement came as U.S. President Joe Biden told CNN that he would be halting the shipment of offensive weapons if the IDF went ahead with its counterterror operation in Gaza’s southernmost city.

Netanyahu reportedly told Blinken during their meeting that while Israel would continue to fight without U.S. support, the arms embargo gave Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah a strategic edge, raising the chances of a prolonged war on multiple fronts in the Middle East.

Asked about Netanyahu’s remarks at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, Blinken said that a single shipment of 2,000-pound bombs remains under review, but that all of the other arms deliveries are moving forward.

Asked if Netanyahu was telling the truth, Blinken told reporters, “I’m not going to talk about what we said in diplomatic conversations.”

In March, Netanyahu canceled Israel’s participation in a Washington discussion on Rafah in response to the United States’ failure to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution decoupling for the first time a demand for a ceasefire from the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

The meeting, which included Sullivan, Hanegbi and Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, was held the following month via video call instead.

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