Netanyahu cancels delegation to US after Biden withholds UN Security Council veto

The delegation was to hold talks on the looming IDF operation in Rafah.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday canceled a high-level delegation to Washington after the Biden administration failed to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war against Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Office announced.

After four failed attempts, the Security Council passed its first resolution calling for an immediate halt to the military operation in the Gaza Strip until the end of Ramadan on April 9.

The resolution, which also called for the release of Israeli hostages, was supported by 14 nations, including veto holders China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield abstained, allowing the measure to pass 14-0.

Following Monday’s vote, Jerusalem announced that “in light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will not depart.”

Netanyahu said that the changed U.S. position “hurts the war effort and the effort to release the hostages” by giving the Hamas terrorist organization hope that international pressure will bring about a ceasefire without freeing the captives.

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The Israeli delegation was slated to travel to Washington this week for talks on the looming Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

It would have included Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Washington had said the discussion would focus on alternatives to a military operation in the city amid reports that President Joe Biden is considering conditioning aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves ahead with it.

In a March 9 interview with MSNBC, Biden declared that invading Rafah is a “red line,” before quickly clarifying that “I’m never going to leave Israel. The defense of Israel is still critical, so there’s no red line [where] I’m going to cut off all weapons.”

The final four Hamas battalions with some 3,000 gunmen are concentrated in Rafah. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that all of the Hamas battalions must be defeated to prevent the terrorist organization from regrouping and reestablishing itself to threaten Israel again.

Netanyahu told visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday that the Jewish state cannot declare victory without destroying the battalions in Rafah. “I told him that I hope we would do this with U.S. support but if necessary, we will do it alone,” the prime minister said.

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Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Last month, Israel put forward an evacuation plan for civilians in Rafah. The proposal envisions 15 campsites of around 25,000 tents each (375,000 tents, in total) where displaced Gazans will be relocated.