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Israel agrees to reschedule delegation to discuss Rafah operation: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has agreed to reschedule a high-level delegation meant to travel from Israel to Washington to discuss the ally’s plans for an operation in Rafah, the White House confirmed Wednesday.

Days earlier, Netanyahu had canceled the delegation set to visit with top Biden administration officials this week as retribution for the U.S. abstaining from a vote of the U.N. Security Council proposal calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“The prime minister’s office has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah, and so we are now working with them to find a convenient date that works for both sides,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, calling the rescheduling “a good thing.”

No date has been finalized, but the meeting could occur as early as next week, an official told The Hill.

The relationship between the United States and Israel has grown tense ahead of a planned Israeli offensive into Gaza’s southernmost city Rafah, a military operation that American officials have warned against because of the dense Palestinian civilian population at risk.

The canceled talks were meant to hash out Israel’s plans for Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering. White House officials have said that a ground invasion of the city without an accepted plan would create a humanitarian disaster.

Top administration officials were still able to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the past two days, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, CIA Director William Burns and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin having “constructive discussions” that included Rafah, a U.S. official told The Hill.

Jean-Pierre told reporters that the officials “discussed how best to ensure Hamas’s lasting defeat in Gaza and the need to protect civilians,” but that it is important for officials to have heard from Netanyahu’s office on Rafah.

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