After canceling top aides’ trip to Washington, Netanyahu now seeking to reschedule

File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)
File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has reached out to the White House, asking to reschedule a meeting regarding a potential Israeli operation in Rafah, which the premier canceled earlier this week, a US official tells The Times of Israel.

Just a few hours ago, Netanyahu boasted of his decision to cancel the delegation of his top aides to Washington in protest of the US decision to allow the passage of a UN Security Council vote that called for an immediate ceasefire and hostage release that didn’t explicitly condition the former on the latter. Netanyahu said the cancellation was a message to Hamas that Israel would not bow to international pressure regarding the war in Gaza.

The US official says the sides are working on a new date for the inter-agency meeting that it was supposed to hold today with Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanedgbi.

The US official notes that top Biden officials Jake Sullivan, Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin and William Burns held “constructive” meetings with visiting Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and that Rafah was a key topic of discussion.

The US maintains that a Rafah offensive will not advance Israel’s war aims because it will lead to even more civilian casualties, cut off the delivery of humanitarian aid, further isolate Israel internationally and harm Israel’s long-term security.

Responding to the American official’s comments, Netanyahu’s office releases a statement saying “the prime minister did not approve the departure of the delegation to Washington,” while not directly denying that talks on the trip are taking place.

An Israeli official also tells The Times of Israel that the reports about talks to reschedule the trip are “not wrong,” and that it would be Dermer and Hanegbi who travel, “whenever the trip is finalized.”

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