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US cancels Iran meeting with Israeli officials in response to Netanyahu broadside

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised Biden's decision to withhold a shipment of large bombs to Israel in a video on Tuesday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor after their meeting in Jerusalem on 17 March 2024 (AFP//File photo)

US President Joe Biden's administration reportedly cancelled a high-level meeting on Iran scheduled for Thursday with Israeli officials, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly criticised Biden's decision to withhold a shipment of large bombs to Israel.

Biden's senior advisers called off at the last minute a strategic dialogue on Iran that would have seen Israeli officials meeting with counterparts from the State Department, Pentagon and US intelligence agencies, Axios reported.

The decision was in response to a broadside Netanyahu launched against Biden on Tuesday.

In a video speaking in English, he reveals details of his discussions with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and slams the administration for holding a shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs to Israel.

“It’s inconceivable that in the past few months the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel,” Netanyahu says in a video on X. “America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

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He went on to compare Israel’s war on Gaza to Britain’s WWII battle against Nazi Germany, playing off an iconic speech by Winston Churchill where he calls on America to provide Britain with new weapons.

“Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster,” Netanyahu said.

According to Axios, US envoy Amos Hochstein personally told Netanyahu in a meeting hours after the video was published that Biden’s senior advisors were livid over the video.

Biden has suggested his counterpart is not serious about a ceasefire in Gaza, despite later saying that Israel had endorsed a US-backed proposal to end the fighting.

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Meanwhile, analysts are concerned that Netanyahu may begin to court more controversy with the US for domestic political reasons.

In June, Benny Gantz, considered a moderating force in government, resigned from Israel’s war cabinet. Analysts say Netanyahu may be more reliant on far-right lawmakers like National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir who has said Israel is "no longer a star" on the American flag.

The Biden administration has been at odds with Netanyahu’s government over a host of issues including a post-war plan for Gaza governance and civilian Palestinian casualties.

In May, Biden announced that his administration had paused a single shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs to Israel, out of concern they could be used in Rafah. 

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centres,” Biden told CNN. "It's just wrong."

But the US has continued to back Israel’s offensive. It welcomed a successful Israeli hostage operation that rescued four Israeli captives from Hamas but led to at least 270 Palestinian casualties, according to Palestinian health officials.

The cancellation of the Iran dialogue meeting appeared to be more a signal of US frustration than a wider rift. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is still set to meet his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, this week in Washington. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s trip to the US next week is still scheduled, Axios reported.

Netanyahu’s speech in English however may resonate more in US domestic politics. The Israeli leader is set to address a rare joint session of Congress on 24 July.

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