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Netanyahu blocks Israeli defense minister from visiting US

Israel's prime minister has yet to receive an invitation from Biden to the White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a pre-Passover event at an air force base on April 3, 2023. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israeli and American sources confirm that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blocked Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from visiting the U.S. at least twice in recent weeks and has urged him not to accept invitations to visit Washington and New York.

According to reports, Netanyahu has barred Gallant’s trips to Washington because the prime minister has yet to receive an invitation to the White House himself, according to local media reports.

The U.S. Biden administration has refrained from extending an White House invitation to Netanyahu since he was re-elected in early November, allegedly due to concerns about the planned governmental judicial reform and the agenda related to the West Bank.

The report noted that the situation could have security implications, as it is unusual to bar the defense minister from visiting Israel’s closest ally. The report also stated that Gallant recently met senior U.S. defense officials in Israel, including the top U.S. general in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred to the report, saying it was inaccurate, while Gallant’s office refused to comment.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu announced the firing of Gallant after the defense minister publicly voiced his opinion about the judicial reforms during a public address. The announcement triggered mass demonstrations and a general strike, which ultimately led Netanyahu to pause the judicial legislation process and start negotiations with his political opponents.

Amid security challenges related to a spike in violence, rockets fired from Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza strip, as well as a series of deadly terror attacks across the nation, Gallant was reinstated to office.

 According to an earlier report by Channel 12 news, Netanyahu instructed all ministers to refrain from traveling to the U.S. and to avoid meeting with government officials there until he receives an invitation from U.S. President Joe Biden. The same rule applied to Cabinet members accepting invitations from the United Arab Emirates.

On May 1, U.S. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said during his first official visit to Israel that if Biden continues to refuse to invite Netanyahu, he will do so. He also emphasized in his speech to the Knesset plenum on Monday, that it would be appropriate for Netanyahu to visit Washington but added that such a visit would be organized in a bipartisan manner.

“I expect the White House to invite the prime minister over for a meeting, especially because of Israel’s 75th anniversary,” McCarthy said. He confirmed the has “a long relationship with the prime minister.” He also made similar comments to the local newspaper Israel Hayom in a Sunday interview saying Biden has waited  “too long now. He should invite him soon.”

Following McCarthy's statement, a spokesperson for the Biden administration allegedly said Netanyahu will be invited to the White House at some point, but at the moment no such visit is planned.

Shortly after Netanyahu announced in late March that he would pause Israel’s judicial reform process and begin negotiations, Biden expressed his hope that the prime minister would “walk away” from the proposed legislation. When asked if he would invite Netanyahu to Washington, Biden replied: “No, not in the near term.”

Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 news on Friday that the conflict over the judicial overhaul is to blame.

 “It is clear to me that if there were no legal reform, Netanyahu would already have visited the White House,” said Hanegbi, but confirmed that U.S.- Israel ties remain solid.

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

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