Sunak joins adviser’s talks with Gantz after Cameron presses him on Gaza aid crisis

English language readout from war cabinet minister’s office says he stressed Israeli support for solutions to current humanitarian crisis; Hebrew readout on UK meetings mum on issue

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and UK National Security Adviser Tim Barrow (C) in London on March 6, 2024. (David Cameron/X)
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and UK National Security Adviser Tim Barrow (C) in London on March 6, 2024. (David Cameron/X)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined a meeting one of his top aides was holding with visiting war cabinet minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday, in a nod of legitimacy to the senior Israeli official who was in London against the wishes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sunak participated in the meeting UK National Security Adviser Tim Barrow was holding with Gantz, the second of two meetings that the war cabinet member held in London, according to an Israeli readout.

Gantz “thanked the UK for its efforts on behalf of Israel’s security and stressed the importance of continued international pressure on Hamas to secure the release of the hostages,” his office said.

The English readout issued by his office said that Israel will support solutions to the humanitarian aid crisis that don’t lead to the assistance being diverted to Hamas. Notably, his office’s Hebrew readout made no mention of the humanitarian crisis, just days after dozens of Palestinians were killed after rushing an aid convoy in northern Gaza under circumstances still being investigated by the IDF.

In Hebrew, Gantz’s office said that he emphasized in his London meetings that Israel remains committed to dismantling Hamas and will do so consistent with international law.

Gantz also thanked the “UK for its efforts to curb the threat posed by the Iranian axis of terror in the Red Sea and in the region more broadly.”

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in London on March 6, 2024. (David Cameron/X)

The British government did not issue a statement on Sunak’s participation in the meeting, but sent out a photo of him speaking with Gantz.

Channel 12 reported that Sunak told Gantz that while pressure is mounting in the British public and parliament, he does not allow himself to forget October 7 because Hamas’s terror onslaught “changed everything.”

Earlier Wednesday, Gantz met with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who offered stern messages on the need for Israel to address the “devastating and growing humanitarian crisis” that Palestinians are facing in Gaza five months into the IDF’s war against the Hamas terror group, the Foreign Office said.

“We discussed efforts to secure a humanitarian pause to get the hostages safely home and lifesaving supplies into Gaza. I once again pressed Israel to increase the flow of aid. We are still not seeing improvements on the ground. This must change,” Cameron said in a statement.

“We need to see an immediate humanitarian pause,” he added, echoing the US position without employing the word “ceasefire” that top Biden officials have increasingly become comfortable using in recent weeks.

Cameron also called for “increased capacity for aid distribution inside Gaza, increased access through both land and maritime routes, and an expansion of the types of humanitarian assistance allowed into Gaza, including shelter and items critical for infrastructure repair.”

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in London on March 6, 2024. (David Cameron/X)

He added that “the UK is also deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah” where Israel intends to operate in order to dismantle Hamas’s remaining battalions in southern Gaza.

“The UK supports Israel’s right to self-defense, but as the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has a legal responsibility to ensure aid is available for civilians. That responsibility has consequences, including when we as the UK assess whether Israel is compliant with international humanitarian law,” the foreign secretary said.

Gantz received similarly frustrated messaging during his meetings with top US officials in Washington earlier this week.

Top aides to US President Joe Biden told the visiting war cabinet that the recent disaster in northern Gaza in which dozens of desperate Palestinians were killed while rushing a convoy of humanitarian aid highlighted for Washington how Israel has failed to properly plan for the war, two US officials told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

The US officials argued during their meetings this week with Gantz that the administrative vacuum in northern Gaza that was exposed by the deadly stampede offered a window into what the entire Strip will look like after the war, if Israel won’t put forward a viable alternative to the Hamas rule it’s seeking to dismantle.

The US officials said that the administration’s anger over the level of aid entering Gaza appeared to be resonating and that they expected new steps to be taken by Israel in the coming days to ensure that more humanitarian assistance reaches Palestinian civilians. The main US request has been that Israel open additional crossings, particularly into northern Gaza, in order to flood the enclave with aid, with the aim of minimizing the impact of looters or gangs trying to sell it on the black market.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the media at Downing Street in London, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Gantz’s visits in both Washington and London have been overshadowed by Netanyahu’s fury over the war cabinet minister taking these meetings without his approval and with foreign leaders who appear to have little interest in meeting with the Israeli premier.

An Israeli official said Netanyahu ordered the Israeli embassy in Washington not to provide assistance to Gantz, who polls indicate would be able to unseat Netanyahu if elections were held today.

The premier went further with the London visit, barring the embassy from even providing Gantz with a security detail, forcing him to rely on local police for personal protection.

While Netanyahu went to great lengths to sabotage Gantz’s trip, the decision by Sunak to meet with him anyway was seen by some as a message to Netanyahu who is viewed as untrustworthy by an increasing number of global leaders.

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