Gallant to meet Blinken, Austin, Hochstein, CIA chief Burns

Heading to US, Gallant says meetings ‘critical for the future of the war’

Defense minister joined by deputy IDF chief in packed visit dealing with multiple fronts, amid spat sparked by Netanyahu’s open criticism of White House weapons holdup

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant makes a statement before flying to Washington, June 23, 2024 (Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant makes a statement before flying to Washington, June 23, 2024 (Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant headed to Washington, DC, on Sunday for a whirlwind visit whose main aim was to get the United States to unfreeze a shipment of heavy-duty bombs it has been withholding from Israel.

In remarks made before departing, Gallant touted the importance of Israel’s relationship with the United States and underscored the significance of his visit.

“The meetings with the senior government officials are critical for the future of the war,” he said. “During these meetings, I plan to discuss developments [on the southern and northern fronts], in Gaza and Lebanon.”

Gallant continued, “We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in additional areas.”

And he noted, “The transition to ‘Phase 3’ in Gaza is of great importance. I will discuss this transition with US officials, touching on how it may enable additional things [to take place], and I know that we will achieve close cooperation with the US on this issue as well.”

The trip came amid a public spat between US President Joe Biden’s administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Tuesday issued a video statement attacking the US for its “inconceivable” weapons holdup, claiming that more arms shipments have also been held back.

The White House has since repeatedly insisted it has “no idea” what Netanyahu was referring to besides the one shipment, though the premier has since doubled down.

Some analysts have speculated that Netanyahu’s video was aimed at ensuring the premier would receive the credit if the US agreed to move forward with the transfer following Gallant’s visit.

The Ynet news site quoted an unnamed Israeli security source as saying Jerusalem had been “very close” to reaching an agreement with Washington on the matter, but that this progress was halted when Netanyahu issued the video. Channel 12 news similarly speculated that the Biden administration was unlikely to budge on the matter as a result of the disagreement going public.

Netanyahu himself is due to visit the US, with an address to a joint session of Congress scheduled for July 24.

Gallant was slated to meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He was also expected to also meet CIA Director William Burns and Special Envoy Amos Hochstein.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant outside the Pentagon on March 26, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

It is the second time the minister has visited the United States amid the war in Gaza, which was triggered by Hamas’s shock October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Gallant was set to discuss a range of issues besides the arms shipment, including other weapons the Israeli military needs, as well as the war in Gaza and the threats Israel is facing from Lebanon and Iran.

In a readout, Gallant’s office said the minister would “discuss the operations necessary to achieve the goals of the war against the Hamas terrorist organization, efforts to ensure the return of the hostages held by Hamas, and measures required to achieve regional stability.”

“He will also raise the unique areas of cooperation between the US and Israeli defense establishments, with an emphasis on force build-up efforts and power projection, while maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the region,” the statement said.

He was joined by Defense Ministry Director General Eyal Zamir and by Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Amir Baram — the latter of whom is the most senior IDF official to travel to the US since the war began.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center), Defense Ministry Director-General Eyal Zamir (right) and Deputy IDF chief of staff Amir Baram (left) are seen during the launch of the Ofek-13 reconnaissance satellite, March 29, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

Also joining Gallant was his chief of staff Shachar Katz, his military secretary Brig. Gen. Guy Markizano, and the director of the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, Dror Shalom.

They were set to hold meetings with senior officials in the American military and present Israel’s plans for a potential major offensive against the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, as well as presenting the results of the ongoing operation in Gaza’s Rafah, which is expected to wind down in the next few weeks and move to a phase of targeted raids.

The visit was also set to touch on Iran’s nuclear program, which according to the UN watchdog has continued to expand throughout Israel’s war against its proxies.

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