The visit to the US by Netanyahu's political rival highlights the divisions in the Israeli government

2024-03-03 22:56:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

The visit to the US by Netanyahu's political rival highlights the divisions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized a cabinet minister who arrives in Washington on Sunday for talks with US officials, an Israeli official said. This signals growing divisions in the ranks of Israeli leaders after nearly five months of fighting with Hamas.

The visit by Benny Gantz, a centrist political rival who joined Mr. Netanyahu's war cabinet formed after the October 7 Hamas attack, comes as tensions have risen between the United States and Mr. Netanyahu over how to ease the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and what form Israel's plan for post-war Gaza should take.

An official in Mr Netanyahu's conservative right-wing Likud party said Mr Gantz's trip was planned without the Israeli leader's approval. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Netanyahu had a "tough conversation" with Mr Gantz and told him the country has "only one prime minister".

Mr Gantz is expected to meet on Monday with US Vice President Kamala Harris and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, while on Tuesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his party, the National Unity Party, announced. A second Israeli official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Gantz's visit is aimed at strengthening relations with the United States, boosting support for Israel as the fighting continues and boosting efforts to free hostages.

American advantages in the region have been increasingly hampered by Mr. Netanyahu's cabinet, which is dominated by ultranationalists. Mr. Gantz's more moderate party has occasionally served as a counterweight.

Mr. Netanyahu's popularity has fallen since the war began, most polls show. Many Israelis hold him responsible for not preventing a Hamas attack inside Israeli territory, during which, according to Israeli authorities, 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed, and about 250 others were taken hostage in Gaza, mostly women, children and old people.

Israelis who are critical of Mr. Netanyahu say his decision-making is marred by political motives, a charge he denies. Criticisms relate in particular to post-war Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu wants Israel to maintain unrestricted control of security in Gaza, while the Palestinians will run the civilian aspects.

The United States would like to see progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

That vision is opposed by Mr. Netanyahu and other hardliners in his government.

Mr. Gantz has not clearly expressed his views on the creation of a Palestinian state. Polls show that he could gain enough support to become prime minister if the elections were held now./ VOA

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