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Talks resume on bringing Israeli officials to the US to discuss Gaza operation, the White House says

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Talks have restarted aimed at bringing top Israeli officials to Washington to discuss potential military operations in Gaza, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned visit this week because he was angry about the U.S. vote on a U.N. cease-fire resolution, the White House said Wednesday.

“So we’re now working with them to find a convenient date that’s obviously going to work for both sides,” said press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

No date has been finalized yet. One U.S. official said strategic affairs minister Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi would be among the delegation to come to Washington. The official were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive discussions and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

An Israeli official said the White House had reached out with the goal of setting a new meeting. The official was not authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity. Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister “did not authorize the departure of the delegation to Washington.”

The prime minister canceled the trip this week after the U.N. vote to demand a cease-fire in Hamas-run Gaza; the U.S. abstained from the vote but did not veto it. Netanyahu accused the United States of “retreating” from a “principled position” by allowing the resolution to pass without conditioning the cease-fire on the release of hostages held by Hamas.

The delegation to the U.S. was meant to discuss a promised ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which is overflowing with displaced civilians. Israel has so far rejected American appeals to call off the planned operation.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was already in Washington by the time Netanyahu canceled the trip by other officials. Gallant met with Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The Gaza operation was one of many topics they discussed.

Netanyahu on Wednesday said his decision to cancel was meant to deliver a message to Hamas that international pressure against Israel will not prompt it to end the war without concessions from the militant group, an apparent attempt to smooth over the clash between the allies.

Speaking to visiting Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Netanyahu said the canceled visit “was a message first and foremost to Hamas: Don’t bet on this pressure, it’s not going to work.”

Netanyahu said the U.S. abstention on the U.N. vote was “very, very bad,” and that it “encouraged Hamas to take a hard line and to believe that international pressure will prevent Israel” from achieving its war aims. Israel wants to destroy Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and free the hostages taken by the militant group during its Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

The U.S. abstention and Netanyahu’s subsequent decision to cancel the delegation represented the strongest public dispute between the two allies since the war in Gaza began.

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Associated Press writers Josef Federman and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

By COLLEEN LONG and SEUNG MIN KIM
Associated Press

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