US 'disappointed' and 'perplexed' as Israel cancels delegation's trip to Washington

High-level Israeli delegation will no longer travel to Washington after US abstention on UN ceasefire resolution

Israel cancels meetings in Washington after UN Gaza ceasefire resolution is passed

Israel cancels meetings in Washington after UN Gaza ceasefire resolution is passed
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The White House on Monday said it was “very disappointed” by Israel's decision to cancel a delegation’s visit to Washington over the US abstention on a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had called off meetings aimed at discussing US concerns over a possible offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

“We're very disappointed that they will not be coming to Washington DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Later at the White House, Mr Kirby said: “We're perplexed by this. This is a non-binding resolution, so there's no impact at all on Israel and Israel's ability to continue to go after Hamas."

According to the UN Charter, all Security Council resolutions are binding under international law.

Tension is growing between the US and Israel over the planned invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, which is hosting about 1.4 million people displaced by Israeli military operations against Hamas.

The 15-member Security Council adopted a resolution that demands a “lasting, sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza. It is the first time the council has passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in the conflict.

“The United States has abandoned its policy in the UN today,” Mr Netanyahu's office said in a statement after the vote.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear last night that should the US depart from its principled policy and not veto this harmful resolution, he will cancel the Israeli delegation's visit to the United States.

“In light of the change in the US position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will remain in Israel.”

But Mr Kirby said the abstention was not a change in the US position on the Israel-Gaza war.

In a phone call, US President Joe Biden asked Mr Netanyahu to send a high-level delegation to Washington to hear alternatives that would allow Israel to continue its fight against Hamas in Rafah without high levels of civilian casualties.

The Israeli Prime Minister at the time agreed to send a team, while publicly saying Israel needs to “finish the job” against the militants believed to be holding positions in the city.

Benjamin Netanyahu: 'We will finish the job in Rafah'

Benjamin Netanyahu: 'We will finish the job in Rafah'

Mr Biden has previously called any Israeli plan to enter Rafah without accounting for civilians a “red line” for the US.

The White House said it has not yet received detailed plans from Israel about the invasion.

“I think we'll have an opportunity to talk about Rafah but it probably won't be a full replacement for what we're hoping to do with a broader, larger delegation of Israeli counterparts,” Mr Kirby said.

“Just because this meeting is now not going to happen doesn't mean that we're are still not going to look for avenues and approach to be able to share those alternatives.”

But US officials held talks on Monday in Washington with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Mr Kirby said Rafah will be mentioned in meetings with Mr Gallant.

“We'll have ample opportunities to talk with him about what's going on with their planning for Rafah as well as what's going on inside negotiations to get all the hostages out," he said.

"So we're focused on moving things forward."

Mr Blinken "reiterated that there are alternatives to a major ground invasion of Rafah that would better ensure Israel's security and protect Palestinian civilians", State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement posted on X.

Mr Sullivan said in social media posts that he and Mr Gallant had "a constructive discussion" about the fight against Hamas, addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and approaching the threat from Iran.

Mr Gallant is expected to meet Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.

Mr Miller called Mr Netanyahu's move “a bit surprising and unfortunate” but said Israel has “made clear that they did want to see the options, the alternatives, that the United States was going to present” on Rafah.

US Vice President warns major Israeli military operation in Rafah would be ‘huge mistake’

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Updated: March 26, 2024, 12:35 AM