Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Defense Minister Yoiav Gallant in the Knesset plenum, May 23, 2023.

Jerusalem has “no moral right” to cease the military operation against Hamas while 134 hostages remain in Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday, ahead of meetings with White House officials.

“The lack of a decisive victory in Gaza may bring us closer to a war in the north,” Gallant warned, according to a Defense Ministry readout.


The defense minister departed for the U.S. capital on Sunday at the invitation of his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin. Gallant is scheduled to meet with Austin, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other senior officials.

“I came here to reflect the importance of strengthening the IDF and empowering the State of Israel,” Gallant stated on Monday, adding: “I will stress the importance of destroying Hamas and returning the hostages.”

Gallant’s trip comes on the backdrop of disputes between Jerusalem and Washington over the prosecution of the next stage of the war in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. In a March 9 interview on MSNBC, U.S. President Joe Biden declared the looming Israel Defense Forces invasion of Rafah a “red line.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Blinken on Friday that the Jewish state cannot declare victory without destroying the Hamas battalions in the southernmost city. “I told him that I hope we would do this with U.S. support but if necessary, we will do it alone,” he said.

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.

Also on Monday, the Biden administration failed to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield abstained on the measure, which called for a halt to the fighting until the end of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan on April 9.

Following the vote, Jerusalem announced that “in light of the change in the American position,” Netanyahu canceled a senior delegation that was supposed to depart for meetings at the White House later this week.

The Israeli delegation 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 Rafah amid reports that Biden is considering conditioning aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves ahead with it.

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.


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