Netanyahu provoking crisis with White House for domestic politics: U.S. officials

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on March 17. Photo: Leo Correa/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Published March 26, 2024

The White House sees the public rift with Israel over a UN Security Council resolutionas an artificial crisis manufactured by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for domestic political reasons, three U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than six months after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which led to unprecedented support for Israel by the Biden administration, the relationshipbetween the U.S. and Israel is rapidly deteriorating.

  • Netanyahu today canceled a visit to the White House later this week by his senior advisers after the U.S. abstained from the UN vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Behind the scenes: On Sunday evening and Monday morning, White House officials held discussions with Netanyahu’s aides about the UN resolution and told him the U.S. was likely to abstain, a source with direct knowledge said.

  • The White House told Netanyahu’s aides during these discussions that the U.S. abstention isn’t a policy change and stressed the Biden administration doesn’t see the UN resolution as binding, the source said.
  • Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday that he made it clear to the Biden administration on Sunday night that he does see it as a change in U.S. policy. He also threatened to cancel an Israeli delegation trip to Washington to discuss the Rafah operation if the U.S. didn’t veto the resolution.


RELATED: Biden admin ‘perplexed’ by Netanyahu decision to cancel Israeli delegation

Netanyahu’s decision followed the U.S. decision to abstain from a vote calling for a cease-fire in Gaza

Published March 25, 2024

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration is “perplexed” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel a high-level delegation’s planned visit to Washington after the U.S. decided not to veto a U.N. Security Council vote demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

Monday’s resolution, which passed 14-0, called for an immediate cease-fire during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel. However, the measure does not link that demand to its call for a cease-fire.

Rather than use its veto power, the U.S. abstained from voting. The U.S. has previously vetoed three resolutions calling for a Gaza cease-fire.

Kirby noted that the resolution is “nonbinding,” meaning that there will be no impact on Israel or its ability to continue waging war on Hamas.

Kirby said the abstention did not represent a change in U.S. policy despite public statements from the prime minister’s office.

“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,” Kirby said.



RELATED: Netanyahu’s decision to cancel Rafah meetings causes new rupture with Biden

Published March 25, 2024
WashingtonCNN — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision Monday to scrap a planned delegation to Washington — a trip President Joe Biden personally requested a week ago, hoping to offer a constructive approach — amounts to a low point in the ever-deepening rift between the two men.

Netanyahu threatened to pull the delegation if the US did not veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Monday. When the US abstained from the vote, allowing it to pass, the Israeli prime minister followed through, canceling meetings that already amounted to a political risk for Biden.

American officials had planned to offer the Israeli delegation a suite of alternative options for going after Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah,hoping to forestall what the US believes would amount to a humanitarian catastrophe if Israel launches a full-scale ground invasion.




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