White House: Biden and Netanyahu are rescheduling DC talks on Rafah


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration says it is rescheduling a Washington visit by Israeli officials that was canceled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, creating an international incident.

Last week, President Joe Biden asked Netanyahu to send a delegation to Washington, D.C., to hear out American objections to Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah, the city on the Gaza-Egypt border that Israel says is the last redoubt of Hamas, the terrorist group that launched the war with an invasion on Oct. 7.Biden officials say a massive incursion into Rafah would be catastrophic because more than a million Palestinians have fled into the city, often at Israel’s behest.

“The Prime Minister’s Office has agreed has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah so we’re now working with them to set to find a convenient date,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House spokeswoman, said Wednesday afternoon at the daily briefing for reporters.

Netanyahu and the White House had scheduled a visit between top officials for Wednesday, but Netanyahu canceled the visit on Monday after the Biden administration allowed a U.N. Security Council Resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Jean-Pierre said a separate visit this week, by Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant, appeared to have calmed the waters. “They were constructive discussions with Israel’s defense minister over the last two days,” she said.

An official in Netanyahu’s office said only that “The White House has made a request to set a new date.” Jean-Pierre said she did not know yet how soon the visit would be.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack killed approximately 1,200 and took some 250 hostages. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war. More than 250 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the invasion of Gaza.

Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas recently broke down after Hamas rejected a U.S.-backed proposal for a temporary ceasefire and release of Israeli hostages. Hamas demanded a full ceasefire and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

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