Wednesday, May 22, 2024

When Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, met David Cameron, Britain’s foreign secretary, in London on Wednesday, he received a stern message that Israel needs to do more to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. It was a minister-level meeting that typically would not attract much attention among the high-level diplomacy surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, both Mr. Gantz and Mr. Cameron are significant figures in their respective countries.

Mr. Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, is a prominent political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu was displeased by what he saw as an unauthorized trip by a potential Israeli leader. Mr. Cameron, a former prime minister, has been vocal on issues like Gaza and the conflict in Ukraine during international trips, where he is often treated as though he still held his previous position.

The unique situation of the meeting, with two influential figures representing almost shadow leadership, highlights the intricate domestic politics of Israel and Britain. In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz have formed a temporary alliance amid a devastating conflict. Meanwhile, Britain is in the late stages of Conservative-led governments under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is more preoccupied with an upcoming general election than foreign affairs.

Sending Mr. Cameron to deliver a firm message to Israel is valuable for Britain as it carries more weight than coming from a standard cabinet minister. Additionally, it shields Mr. Sunak from potential political repercussions of confronting Mr. Netanyahu directly.

During their meeting, Mr. Cameron emphasized the need to pause the conflict and urged Mr. Gantz to increase humanitarian aid despite supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. As the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has a legal responsibility to ensure aid reaches civilians, which has implications for its compliance with international humanitarian law.

These meetings between Mr. Gantz and British officials also serve to signal to Mr. Netanyahu and illustrate the internal dynamics within the Israeli war cabinet. Tensions exist over critical issues like negotiations with Hamas and future peace agreements with the Palestinians.

Currently, Mr. Gantz holds higher approval ratings than Mr. Netanyahu, who faced legal issues before the conflict and criticism for intelligence lapses in a recent attack by Hamas fighters. Polls suggest Mr. Gantz’s party would gain more seats than Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party in a potential election.

Before visiting London, Mr. Gantz had meetings in Washington to coordinate with American officials on key messages around humanitarian aid. The primary focus in both London and Washington was on facilitating aid to Gaza amid the ongoing conflict.

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