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Top Israeli cabinet official meets with U.S. leaders in Washington despite Netanyahu's opposition

Biden pushes for Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal
Biden calls for cease-fire deal as Harris meets with top Israeli war official 02:31

Washington — Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz is meeting with top leaders in Washington this week, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes his visit. 

Gantz, who is the chairman of Israel's National Unity Party and a political opponent of Netanyahu, met with Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House on Monday, and was set to sit down with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill later in the day. On Tuesday, Gantz is expected to have a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  

In a summary of the meeting, the White House said that Harris "reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself in the face of ongoing Hamas terrorist threats, and underscored our unwavering commitment to Israel's security." Harris also "expressed her deep concern about the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the recent horrific tragedy around an aid convoy in northern Gaza," according to the statement.

Gantz's visit to Washington is taking place against Netanyahu's wishes, an Israeli official confirmed to CBS News. The prime minister has ordered Israel's ambassador to the U.S. and the Israeli Embassy to boycott Gantz's meetings with Harris and Sullivan, even though it is customary for the ambassadors to appear with foreign leaders during visits.  

Israel's former defense minister Benny Gantz speaks during a parliament meeting in Jerusalem on July 10, 2023.
Israel's former defense minister Benny Gantz speaks during a parliament meeting in Jerusalem on July 10, 2023. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

Gantz's visit to Washington comes as the Biden administration has seemed to take a tougher rhetorical stance on Israel, as the death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 30,000 since the war began nearly five months ago.

The U.S. conducted its first airdrops of food aid into Gaza over the weekend. And Harris gave some of the administration's most forceful remarks about Israel and Gaza on Sunday, demanding an "immediate" cease-fire for at least the next six weeks.  

The U.S. has been advocating for the six-week cease-fire for weeks, which would allow for the release of additional hostages. A senior U.S. administration official said over the weekend that Israel endorsed a framework for a cease-fire and hostage release. But according to Israeli media, the government boycotted the talks on Sunday after Hamas rejected demand for a complete list of living hostages.

Margaret Brennan contributed reporting.

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