Harris offers faint praise, while blasting Israel on Gaza aid issue in meeting with Gantz

While welcoming Israel’s ‘constructive approach to hostage talks,’ the U.S. vice president repeatedly stressed that Gazan civilians needed more help.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris both praised and criticized Israel during her meeting with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz Monday, with an emphasis on the negative, blaming the Jewish state for the lack of humanitarian aid getting to Gazan civilians.

According to a White House readout of the meeting, the praise mainly consisted of “welcom[ing] Israel’s constructive approach to hostage talks.”

The vice president also called for Hamas “to accept the terms on the table,” which include a six-week ceasefire and the release of an as-yet unknown number of terrorists from Israeli prisons in exchange for 40 hostages who are either female, older or minors, sick or wounded.

This would still leave 62 live hostages in Gaza, according to Israel’s belief that 32 have died in captivity.

On Friday, Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida wrote in a Telegram post that more than 70 captives have been killed due to Israeli military operations in the Strip.

Hamas official Basem Naim told AFP Monday that “we don’t know exactly who’s alive or dead.

Even in her support of Israel regarding the deal, Harris emphasized the aid issue, saying that freeing hostages would “enable a surge of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza” once a ceasefire goes into effect.

Harris sharply criticized Israel’s efforts so far in this sphere, according to sources cited by The Jerusalem Post.

This would be in line with Harris’ statements Sunday, in a speech in Alabama, where she said Israel had “no excuses” for not enabling more humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

One source said that Harris had told Gantz that the White House wants to continue backing Israel but for that to happen Israel “needs to do its part,” as the paper said.

This mainly referred to increasing the flow of aid, said the source.

Some could take this as a concealed threat, despite Harris’ assurance that America has an “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” as the readout stated.

The White House statement had simply said that Harris had “urged Israel to take additional measures in cooperation with the United States and international partners to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and ensure its safe distribution to those in need.”

Another point of criticism was related to the IDF’s planned incursion into Hamas’ last remaining stronghold of Rafah, whether or not there is a temporary ceasefire.

Harris reiterated the American position that it would only support a major military move if Israel had a “credible” plan to evacuate Gazan civilians from the area first.

Over a million Gazans fled to the southern-most town in the Strip when the IDF warned them to leave battle zones before engaging with Hamas forces.

According to the Post, Gantz has said that none of the officials he’s talked to so far on his trip, who also include National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. Middle East envoy Brett McGurk, believe what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling them about such plans.

The humanitarian aid issue was also at the “top of the agenda” in Gantz’s earlier meetings with Sullivan and McGurk, according to National Security Adviser spokesman John Kirby.

He said that the American message was that “We believe that Israel can and should do more,” noting that there had been “incidents” in which Israelis “have not been willing and able to keep the [aid] trucks going at an increased level.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said bluntly, “What we have made clear is that…it is not an acceptable alternative for people to starve.”

Many Israelis believe that a good portion of the aid is being stolen by Hamas, thereby allowing the terror organization to prolong the war.

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