Israel backpeddles on cancellation of Rafah meeting

Israel plans to reschedule a meeting with President Joe Biden after Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled talks in anger at the US ceasefire resolution, AFP reported. 

After vetoing a UN Security Council draft resolution on the issue three times, Washington created a draft of their own, which called for an immediate ceasefire, and abstained on a UN resolution on March 25 which pushed for an immediate ceasefire for the holy month of Ramadan, which draws to a close on April 8, and also demands the release of all hostages seized in the Hamas-attack on October 7. 

Shortly after the vote, Netanyahu announced that talks in Washington would be cancelled but started the process of rescheduling a meeting on March 27. 

The far-right leader argued that a US, Israel’s biggest ally who funds the country militarily to the tune of $3.3 billion a year, abstention, which caused the UN resolution to be passed, hampered Israel’s efforts to release all captives, 130 of whom remain in Gaza. 

READ: Netanyahu “determined” to continue Rafah assault, snubs Biden

The Biden White House stressed their confusion and disappointment at the decision as well as noting that Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant had “constructive discussions” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA director William Burns and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan over recent days. 

The Israeli premier’s office said that talks would focus on the country’s potential ground invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s most southern city and at the border with Egypt, and that they are “working with the US to set a convenient date” for a meeting. 

Blinken has raised strong concern at the prospect of a Rafah onslaught, saying on March 21, “There is a false choice involved here… Hamas can be effectively dealt with without a major ground operation in Rafah.”   

Prior to the cancellation on March 25, Netanyahu agreed to a personal request by the American President to send delegates to the White House to hear US concerns and discuss ways to target Gaza-controlling militants Hamas without a major ground operation in Rafah, now home to 1.5 million people due to a mass internal diaspora caused by an incessant pummeling of the besieged enclave. 

Mr Biden reportedly stressed the necessity for a meeting with his Israeli counterpart given the increasingly grave situation in Rafah and the Strip more generally. 

AFP / The Guardian

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