US ‘perplexed’ by Israel’s decision to nix delegation over UN vote

One official suggested that the move was made due to internal political pressures and not the US abstention from a UNSC ceasefire demand.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Biden administration said this week it was confused over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that the U.S. has changed its policy on the Israel-Hamas war, leading him to nix sending a high-level delegation to Washington to discuss how to deal with Hamas’ last military stronghold in Rafah.

Speaking to the press at a White House briefing Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “We’re kind of perplexed by this” decision, since “our vote does not – I repeat – does not represent a shift in our policy.”

“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,” he added.

The Israeli leader’s accusation came after a U.S. abstention allowed the passage of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an “immediate ceasefire” during Ramadan “leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip.

While also requiring “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs,” it does not condition a ceasefire on their freedom.

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This is a telling difference, according to Israeli leaders.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that the American move “hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the abductees, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a ceasefire without the release of our abductees.”

Kirby took issue with that interpretation.

“This [resolution] didn’t condemn Hamas, which is why we couldn’t support it,” he said. “But we didn’t veto it because, in general, unlike previous resolutions, this one did fairly capture what has been our consistent policy, which is linking a hostage deal and the release of those men and women with, of course, a temporary ceasefire.”

In a separate press briefing, a second American official said that the U.S. had insisted that the two demands be made in the same paragraph, specifically to link the issues.

The official added that Netanyahu’s withdrawal of permission for the delegation to fly in was probably tied to internal political pressures.

When asked about this speculation, Kirby refused to comment on what those pressures might be.

He also defended the abstention by saying that it was “a nonbinding resolution. So, there’s no impact at all on Israel and Israel’s ability to continue to go after Hamas.”

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According to Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, however, this position is not universally accepted.

“Even if the United States explains that, from their perspective, the decision is not binding and they link the release of hostages with the ceasefire, our enemy does not see it that way,” Erdan told Israel National News Tuesday.

He pointed out that the Palestinian ambassador had already told the press why the measure is binding, and said that its passage “opens the door to many legal initiatives against us around the world and to significant damage.”

Kirby insisted that the Biden administration was still firmly in Israel’s corner, even if it is “disappointed” with Netanyahu’s decision, as the spokesman put it.

In answer to a reporter’s question whether the abstention shows that “the U.S. has no longer got Israel’s back” in the UN, Kirby said, “Nothing could be further from the truth, quite frankly.  Of course, we still have Israel’s back.  I mean, as you and I are speaking, we are still providing tools and capabilities, weapons systems so that Israel can defend itself against what we — we agree is still a viable threat to [of] Hamas.”