Biden admin. cancels meeting with Israel officials over Iran

The White House has canceled a high-level US-Israel meeting on Iran that was scheduled for Thursday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video claiming Washington was withholding military aid, two American officials have told Axios.

President Joe Biden’s top advisers were enraged by the video — a message US envoy Amos Hochstein delivered personally to Netanyahu in a meeting hours after it was published, two US and Israeli sources say.

Then the White House decided to go a step farther by canceling Thursday’s meeting.

“This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official said.

“The Americans are fuming. Bibi’s video made a lot of damage,” a senior Israeli official stated, using a nickname for Netanyahu.

Some Israeli officials were already en route to Washington when the meeting was cancelled.

Two US officials told Axios the meeting was canceled to send a message about the video. A third claimed the meeting was postponed rather than canceled, due to a scheduling issue.

Speaking in English, Netanyahu declared in the video that it was “inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel”.

In public, the White House expressed bafflement. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that only one weapons shipment had been paused since the war began, while billions of dollars of weapons had flowed unimpeded.

“We genuinely do not know what he is talking about,” she added.

In private, Biden’s team was angry and shocked by Netanyahu’s ingratitude, according to one US official.

Hochstein was already scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Tuesday during a stop in Israel on the way back from Beirut, where he was trying to de-escalate the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Once in the room, he told Netanyahu the accusations in the video were both inaccurate and out of line, two Israeli officials briefed on the meeting tell Axios.

In addition, Biden’s top advisers decided to cancel the strategic dialogue on Iran, which was to include hours of meetings involving officials from the State Department, Pentagon and US intelligence agencies, along with their Israeli counterparts.

An Israel official confirmed the White House notified Israel of the decision.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan will still meet his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, who had already departed for the US, per the Israeli official. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is also still scheduled to visit early next week, Israeli officials say.

Relations between Biden and Netanyahu’s teams are more strained now than at any point in the eight months since the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7.

This is the second time a meeting of the Iran strategic dialogue was canceled at the last minute.

In March it was Netanyahu who pulled the plug, after the US declined to veto a UN Security Council resolution that included a reference to a ceasefire in the besieged strip.

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