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US and Israeli officials to meet virtually Monday after canceled delegation

U.S. and Israeli officials will meet virtually on Monday to discuss Israel’s plans for a military operation in Rafah as part of its ongoing war against Hamas, a U.S. official confirmed in a statement.

The scheduled meeting comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled last week’s plan for an Israeli delegation to visit with top Biden administration officials in Washington.

“I can confirm that U.S. and Israeli officials are set to meet virtually today to continue discussions on Rafah,” a U.S. official said in a statement to The Hill, confirming reporting by Axios.

“We anticipate follow up meetings in person following additional work by expert teams,” the official added.

Netanyahu canceled the delegation last week after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire during Ramadan leading to “a lasting sustainable” cease-fire. The resolution also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

National security communications adviser John Kirby responded by saying the White House was “perplexed” by the Israeli prime minister’s decision to cancel the delegation. The White House said its moves were not a shift in policy.

“A couple of points that need to be stated and in fact, restated. No. 1, it’s a nonbinding resolution. So, there’s no impact at all on Israel and Israel’s ability to continue to go after Hamas,” Kirby said. “No. 2 … it does not represent a change at all in our policy. It’s very consistent with everything that we’ve been saying we want to get done here. And, we get to decide what our policy is.”

“The prime minister’s office seems to be indicating through public statements that we somehow changed here. We haven’t, and we get to decide what our policy is. It seems like the prime minister’s office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that,” he added.

The White House subsequently said that Netanyahu’s office agreed to reschedule the meeting and that they were working to find a convenient date that works for both sides.

Axios reported that, after the White House made Netanyahu’s request public, Netanyahu denied that he would be sending a delegation to the White House.

The meeting comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Israel ahead of a planned Israeli offensive into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. American officials have warned against the military operation because of the dense Palestinian civilian population at risk. 

The initial meeting was aimed at hashing out Israel’s plans for Rafah. White House officials have said that a ground invasion of the city without an accepted plan would create a humanitarian disaster. 

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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