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After canceling delegation, US and Israel reschedule Rafah talks; Netanyahu says no green light yet

Both sides looking for new date after Netanyahu scrapped talks because of UNSC resolution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a bipartisan US Congressional delegation, March 27, 2024 (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

The U.S. and Israel are working to set a new date for the canceled talks about Israel’s plans to enter the southern Gaza city of Rafah, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.

The Israeli delegation’s departure was canceled on short notice by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the U.S. abstention on a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza without conditioning it on the release of the Israeli hostages by Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office didn’t deny that negotiations about a new date were taking place, but emphasized that “Contrary to publications, the Prime Minister did not approve the departure of the delegation to Washington.”

an Israeli official spoke to the Times of Israel on Wednesday, confirming the reports about the rescheduling were “not wrong.”

“The Prime Minister’s office has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah,” Jean-Pierre said while adding that the discussions about Rafah were “urgent.”

“We are now working on a convenient date that will work for both sides,” she added.

The Axios news outlet quoted Israeli and American sources saying that the delegation, which is once again expected to be led by Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi, could depart as early as next week.

The abrupt cancellation of the talks was the culmination of months of tensions between Israel and the Biden administration over Israel’s war strategy in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu explained that canceling the delegation was meant as a message to Hamas, rather than a snub of the U.S. in reaction to Washington allowing the UN resolution to pass.

The prime minister sent a similar message in private to the White House, explaining he didn’t mean to pick a fight with Biden, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Instead, the decision was “a message to Hamas: Don't bet on this pressure, it’s not going to work. I hope they got the message,” Netanyahu said.

Despite the delegation being scrapped, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday wrapped up a
3-day visit to the U.S. that also focused on Israel’s plans for Rafah.

In meetings with senior U.S. officials, which he termed “successful,” Gallant said he emphasized that Israel had “no possibility of compromising on the results of the war” and no “moral right to stop before the return of all the hostages and the overthrow of Hamas rule.”

The Times of Israel reported that U.S. officials also thought the talks were “constructive,” adding that they focused on Israel’s plans for a ground incursion into Rafah, Hamas’ last main stronghold in the Gaza Strip.

During their latest phone call, Biden and Netanyahu had agreed Israel would send a team to Washington to “exchange views and discuss alternative approaches that would target key elements of Hamas and secure the Egypt-Gaza border without a major ground operation in Rafah.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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