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Jun 23, 2024, 12:57pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Israel defense chief in Washington as threat of new war looms

Insights from Nicholas Kristoff, The Economist, the BBC, The Times of Israel

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
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Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is in Washington this week for high-level talks with US officials, as tensions between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah threaten to cascade into a war on Israel’s northern border.

The trip also comes as the escalating row between the US and Israel over arms shipments reached a new height on Sunday. Speaking during a cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his claim that Washington has held up the delivery of weapons to Israel.

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The White House called the assertion “perplexing” last week, and that it had only held up one shipment of very large bombs in early May over concerns of an Israeli offensive on the Gazan city of Rafah.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Gallant’s trip could resolve US-Israel row

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Sources:  
The Jerusalem Post, Nicholas Kristof, The Times of Israel

Yoav Gallant’s visit could mend the rift over weapons shipments from the US that emerged last week, catching Washington somewhat off-guard. The defense minister is seen as the “number-two critical interlocutor” between Israel and the US, and sources close to Gallant have “blamed Netanyahu for aggravating the weapons crisis rather than navigating it cleverly and quietly,” The Jerusalem Post reported. Netanyahu’s assertion, made in an English-language video last week, was a “remarkable show of ingratitude to a president who has been his lifeline,” The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote, referring to President Joe Biden. Netanyahu, for his part, said Sunday that he brought up the weapons issue to US officials privately for “many weeks,” before going public with his frustrations.

Israel-Hezbollah antagonism threaten to ignite another, more devastating war

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Sources:  
Semafor, The Washington Post, BBC, The Times of Israel

Tensions have been rising for months between Israel and Hezbollah, with each side nipping at the other over the country’s northern border with Lebanon. Recently, Israel has killed Hezbollah commanders and struck deeper inside Lebanon, while Hezbollah upped its own attacks and threatened more; on Saturday, the militant group threatened to attack critical Israeli buildings if a war were to break out. “Tough talk has long been part of a mutual strategy of deterrence, with both sides seen as wary of all-out war,” according to a BBC report from the border. But there are growing signs that Israel is prepared to use more force against Hezbollah: Gallant last week rejected joining a France-led task force aimed at diffusing the situation.

Gaza ceasefire core to diffusing Hezbollah tensions

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, The Economist

Israel’s Gallant said he plans to discuss the next phase of the conflict in Gaza with US officials. He and other Israeli leaders have called on Netanyahu to propose a plan for governance in post-war Gaza, while the US is pushing for a ceasefire that opens the door to future talks about who will run the enclave going forward. The Biden administration doesn’t want a potential Israel-Hezbollah war on its hands, but “it can’t broker a deal unless there’s a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. Israel refuses a lasting ceasefire. And Biden refuses to seriously pressure Israel to accept one,” The Economist’s Middle East correspondent wrote. “That’s the situation. Everything else is spin.”

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