Gantz's planned visit to US widens rift in Israel war cabinet

Yasmine Osama Farag , Sunday 3 Mar 2024

In a new sign of growing political tension in Israel, the Israeli embassy in Washington has been instructed not to facilitate Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s trip to the US after it was not authorized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

File photo- Israeli Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a press conference in a military base in Tel Aviv.AFP


Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog will not take part in the visit, the report said, without clarifying where the order came from.

Netanyahu was reportedly infuriated by Gantz’s decision to travel for meetings with senior US officials without his approval.

An official from Netanyahu’s Likud party said Gantz’s visit was without authorization from the Israeli leader. The official said Netanyahu had a “tough talk” with Gantz about the trip and told him the country has “just one prime minister.”

A source close to Netanyahu said the PM “made it clear to Minister Gantz that the State of Israel only has one prime minister,” Israeli Ynet reported.

The source said the trip was organized without the prime minister’s approval and contrary to government regulations that require “every minister to clear travel in advance with the prime minister, including approval of the travel plan.”

On Saturday, a White House official said that US Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday, as the US looks to secure a temporary ceasefire deal to bring in more humanitarian aid into Gaza and for captives to be released.

"The vice president will reiterate civilian casualties must be reduced," the official said. Harris also plans to express concern for the safety of people in Rafah, and "the importance of creating a hopeful political horizon for the Palestinian people," the official added.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will also attend the White House meeting, the official said.

Additionally, Gantz plans to meet with Democratic and Republican members of Congress during his visit, his office said in a press release.

Details of the trip, and an allegedly tense phone conversation between Netanyahu and Gantz about the visit, were first reported earlier by the Ynet outlet.

Netanyahu was said to have been unaware of the visit until Gantz, who leads the National Unity party, called him on Friday to let the prime minister know of his plans and to discuss what messages to convey to the Americans.

Gantz, a former military chief and defense minister, joined Netanyahu’s hard-line government early in the war. He is Netanyahu’s main political rival in opinion polls.

A survey by Israeli news channels 12 and 13 revealed in February that Gantz Holds a wide lead over Netanyahu in the event of Israeli government elections.

The survey suggested that Gantz's National Unity Party would win 37 seats in the Knesset and Netanyahu's Likud 18.

 US frustration

US President Joe Biden has been expressing his frustration in recent private conversations over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza, and he has named Netanyahu as the primary obstacle, people familiar with Biden’s comments told NBC in February.

Biden said he is trying to get Israel to agree to a cease-fire, but Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with.

Biden has in recent weeks privately referenced Netanyahu as “this guy,” and even called him an “asshole,” in at least three recent instances, according to the sources.

Furthermore, senior US officials have noted that the Biden administration is trying to lay the groundwork with other Israeli leaders and representatives of civil society in anticipation of a future post-Netanyahu government.

In an attempt to bypass Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken separately met in his last January visit to Israel with members of the diplomatic security cabinet and other Israeli leaders, including opposition leader Yair Lapid, according to NBC.


The US wants to see progress on the creation of a Palestinian state, envisioning a revamped Palestinian leadership running Gaza with an eye toward eventual statehood.

That vision is opposed by Netanyahu and the hard-liners in his government. 

Gantz has remained vague about his view of Palestinian statehood.

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