Israeli Defense Minister Visits US Amid Tensions Over Gaza War

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has arrived in Washington for a series of meetings with top US officials, amid growing rifts between the two allies over the ongoing war in Gaza. Gantz is expected to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the prospects of a ceasefire, and the future of the US-Israeli security cooperation. Gantz’s visit comes as the US has been pressuring Israel to accept a six-week truce with Hamas, which Israel has reportedly agreed to in principle, but with conditions.

Gantz’s trip to the US capital will include meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, according to his National Unity Party. Gantz will also meet with members of Congress and representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby group.

Gantz’s agenda will focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have been killed and 70,000 injured since the war broke out in October 2023, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The UN has warned of a looming famine and a collapse of basic services in the besieged enclave, where Israel has imposed a blockade and launched airstrikes and ground operations. The US has been calling for an immediate ceasefire and has pledged to provide $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Gantz will also discuss the security situation in the region, where Israel faces threats from Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah. The US has been supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and has provided $3.8 billion in annual military aid to the Jewish state. However, the US has also expressed concerns over the disproportionate use of force by Israel and the civilian casualties in Gaza. The US has also been pursuing a diplomatic solution to the conflict, by engaging with Egypt, Qatar, and other regional actors, as well as with Hamas indirectly.

Gantz’s Trip Sparks Controversy in Israel

Gantz’s trip to Washington has sparked controversy in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly opposed his visit and instructed the Israeli Embassy in the US to withhold any assistance in arranging the meetings. Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges and a political deadlock, has been reluctant to accept a ceasefire with Hamas, and has accused the US of undermining Israel’s security and sovereignty.

Netanyahu and Gantz are rivals who formed a unity government in May 2023, after three inconclusive elections. Under their power-sharing deal, Netanyahu serves as the prime minister until November 2024, when Gantz is supposed to take over. However, the coalition has been marred by infighting and mistrust, and has failed to pass a budget or address the COVID-19 pandemic. The war in Gaza has also exposed the deep divisions within the government and the society over the path forward.

The Outlook for the US-Israeli Relations

Gantz’s visit to the US is seen as a test for the US-Israeli relations, which have been strained by the war in Gaza and the diverging views on Iran’s nuclear program. The US, under President Joe Biden, has been seeking to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Israel vehemently opposes and has vowed to prevent. The US has also been more critical of Israel’s settlement expansion and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, and has expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, the US and Israel also share common interests and values, and have a long history of friendship and cooperation. The US is Israel’s most important ally and partner, and has provided diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Jewish state. The US and Israel also cooperate on various fields, such as intelligence, technology, and innovation. The US and Israel also face common challenges and threats, such as terrorism, extremism, and regional instability.

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