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Def. Minister Gallant leaves for high-level Gaza War talks in Washington amid US-Israeli rift

Talks will focus on victory over Hamas, return of hostages and arms shipments

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends a state ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers whose burial place is unknown, at Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on March 17, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant took off for an official visit to the U.S. on Sunday, at a critical moment in the increasingly fraught relations between the Biden administration and Israel’s Netanyahu-led government.

In his remarks before boarding the plane, Gallant noted that his talks with several U.S. officials would focus on preserving Israel’s military edge in the region, as well as on ways to achieve the “common goals” of defeating Hamas and returning the Israeli hostages from captivity in Gaza.

“I am traveling to the United States today upon invitation by the U.S. government. This is a very important trip during which I will meet with a series of senior U.S. officials, firstly the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Director of the CIA,” Gallant said.

“This visit will focus on preserving the qualitative military edge (QME) of the State of Israel, our ability to obtain platforms and munitions, our critical ties with the United States, and the importance of achieving our goals in Gaza – namely defeating the Hamas [terrorist] organization, returning the hostages [home] and ensuring Israel’s security needs as these relate to the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.”

The Axios news outlet reported last week that Gallant intends to bring with him a list of specific requests for U.S. weapon systems, including short-term requests for the Gaza War, as well as long-term requests, like the additional purchase of F-35 and F-15 fighter jets.

Israeli officials expressed concern that the Biden administration could slow down the pace of weapons shipments as a way of pressuring Israel, according to Axios.

U.S.-Israel relations have suffered badly in recent months, with the Biden administration at first increasingly calling out Israel for the mounting number of civilian casualties claimed by Hamas and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, before openly questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership.

The most contentious issue is Israel’s planned incursion into the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Sunday that “any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake,” and didn’t rule out “consequences” for Israel if would go ahead with the operation.

In addition to Gallant, an Israeli delegation led by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will be in Washington this week to discuss possible alternatives to a ground incursion into Rafah.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Netanyahu agreed that Israel would send a delegation to discuss the Rafah operation during their phone call last Monday.

The Biden administration opposes any major ground operation by Israeli forces in Rafah, while Netanyahu has argued it is a necessary condition to win the war. U.S. officials reportedly intend to present the Israeli delegation with several alternative strategies.

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

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