Netanyahu cancels delegation to U.S. over cease-fire vote

Washington — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he will not send a delegation to Washington after the U.S. refused to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. 

The Security Council passed the resolution on Monday that called for a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in two weeks. The resolution also demands the release of the remaining hostages that have been held captive since the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas, but does not condition a cease-fire on the release of hostages. 

The U.S. abstained from the vote, which Netanyahu’s office said was a “clear retreat from the consistent position of the U.S.” since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

“This withdrawal hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the hostages, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a cease-fire without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu’s office said. 

Netanyahu made it clear to the U.S. on Sunday that he would not send the delegation to the U.S. to discuss the Israeli military’s plans for an operation in Rafah without the veto, according to his office. 

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Israel’s statement was “surprising and unfortunate.” 

The U.S. had concerns about the resolution because it did not condemn the terrorist attack, but did not veto it because its call for a cease-fire and the release of hostages is consistent with U.S. policy, Miller said, calling the resolution “non-binding.” 

White House spokesman John Kirby called the cancelation “disappointing,” and said the U.S. abstention “does not represent a shift in our policy.”  

“We’re very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington, D.C., to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” Kirby told reporters.  

The Biden administration has supported Israel’s right to defend itself in response to the terrorist attack, but has become more critical of Netanyahu’s government amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and has urged restraint in Rafah, a city near Egypt’s border where more than one million displaced Palestinians are estimated to have taken refuge after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is visiting Washington this week to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, but those meetings are separate from those with the now-canceled delegation, Kirby said. 

Sara Cook contributed reporting. 

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