Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is slated to meet with his American counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in Washington later this month, his office said in a statement Sunday.
The meeting signals an end to an apparent ban by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on minister visits to Washington until he’s invited to the White House.
The Israeli premier met two weeks ago with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and not at the White House as Netanyahu had sought. But Biden opened their meeting by indicating he would invite Netanyahu to the White House in the near future.
Gallant has met with Austin twice already since entering the role in late December — in Israel and in Brussels. The pair have also held numerous phone calls over the past 10 months.
The Defense Ministry said Sunday that Gallant received an invitation from Austin to Washington. In the statement, the ministry said the official visit to the US was scheduled to take place later this month.
“During the visit, Minister Gallant will meet with additional senior US officials and will discuss developing security challenges and opportunities in the Middle East region,” his office added.
Gallant visited the US in late August to meet with officials at the UN headquarters, ahead of a vote on extending the mandate of a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
During that visit, Gallant also met with two White House officials — US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk — but notably no senior American defense officials, given that Netanyahu himself had not been invited to the White House at that time.
The upcoming meeting between Gallant and Austin is likely to focus on the issue of the Iranian threat in the Middle East, and a potential US-backed normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.