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White House 'perplexed' after Netanyahu cancels delegation to DC

The White House on Monday said it was puzzled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel a delegation meeting in Washington after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“We’re kind of perplexed by this,” national security communications adviser John Kirby said when asked for President Biden’s reaction to the decision.

When later asked for Biden’s personal reaction, Kirby said he hasn’t talked directly to the president. He added that Biden and Netanyahu hadn’t spoken Monday.

Netanyahu’s decision comes after the U.S. declined to veto the Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. His office issued a statement calling the U.S. abstention “a clear retreat from the consistent position of the United States,” according to Israeli news outlets.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

The Israeli delegation was expected to arrive this week in the U.S. for talks, which would have come as Israeli forces are threatening to move into Rafah, a refugee camp where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering from the war.

Earlier Monday, Kirby told reporters he was “disappointed” Israel canceled the delegation. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is in Washington and is still expected to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Source: The Hill

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