Gallant says progress made on arms sales, affirms Israeli commitment to hostage proposal

The Israeli defense minister has been meeting with senior U.S. officials and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (R) meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L) at the Pentagon on June 25, 2024 in Arlington, Virginia.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Tuesday during a visit to Washington, D.C., that Israel is committed to the hostage deal outlined by President Joe Biden, and that the two sides had successfully resolved some of the issues delaying U.S. arms shipments to Israel.

“During the meetings we made significant progress, obstacles were removed, and bottlenecks were addressed, in order to advance a variety of issues and more specifically the topic of force build-up and supply of munition,” Gallant said.

Gallant said it was important to solve disagreements behind closed doors. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, highlighted accusations that the U.S. was delaying weapons transfers in a controversial public video last week.

A senior administration official on Tuesday, speaking about the meetings with Gallant, continued to insist that only one shipment of heavy munitions remains under review and claimed that both delegations “confirmed the movement of munitions and military systems to Israel.”

The official said that U.S. and Israeli officials had reviewed current arms sales cases, claiming there had been “bottlenecks” and “misunderstanding[s]” about where some cases stood in the U.S. process, and that the two sides would work together to avoid inefficiencies and ensure proper prioritization.

“There was real progress and a mutual understanding of where things stand, of prioritization of certain cases over others so that we can make sure that we are moving things in ways that meet the needs of the Israelis,” the official continued.

Gallant also affirmed Israel’s commitment to the proposed cease-fire deal Biden announced last month.

“The State of Israel, the defense establishment — we are all committed to and firmly backing the president’s deal. Hamas must accept it or bear the consequences,” Gallant said. “We stand together with the rest of the world on this issue.”

Gallant outlined a series of next steps he wants to see in Gaza, including empowering an alternative governance structure led by local Palestinians. He said the U.S., regional partners and Palestinian actors have been working on a post-war plan, emphasizing the need for engagement with the international community.

Gallant also spoke at length about the threat from Hezbollah, which he said he had discussed extensively with U.S. officials this week, including in two meetings with U.S. negotiator Amos Hochstein, who had been in the region the week prior.

“Israel wants to find a solution that will change the security situation in the north. We do not want war, but we are preparing for every scenario,” Gallant said. “We are willing to do everything in our power to protect our people. We don’t want to get into a war because it’s not good for Israel. We have the ability to take Lebanon back to the Stone Age, but we don’t want to do it.”

Gallant said Israel prefers to restore calm in the north through a deal, but is preparing for other options and won’t tolerate Hezbollah troops and military units on its border.

He said Israel has already eliminated 400 Hezbollah terrorists in the past few months, as well as significant terrorist infrastructure and Hezbollah leaders.

The senior Biden administration official said that Hezbollah is, at least publicly, saying it won’t agree to a deal until the fighting in Gaza stops, but that the administration is pushing ahead with negotiations regardless.

“They’re basically delegating everything to [Oct. 7 mastermind Yahya] Sinwar in his tunnel. We frankly completely reject this logic, totally,” the official said. “It’s just completely unacceptable.”

Gallant highlighted what he said were Israeli successes in Gaza, including that “Hamas as a military formation has been mostly dismantled,” leaving Israel mostly “fighting pockets of resistance.” 

He said Israel has destroyed hundreds of kilometers of tunnels as deep as 50 meters underground, as well as tunnel junctions, and is seeking to block supply lines to Hamas.

Addressing humanitarian aid in Gaza, Gallant said that Israel has solved the issue of access into Gaza by opening additional entry points following his last U.S. visit, but said that the issues of distribution and convoy security in Gaza are more challenging. He said he’s personally met with senior U.N. officials about these problems.

The American official agreed that there are significant amounts of aid getting into Gaza, but internal distribution by the United Nations remains an issue; he said both Israel and the U.N. have roles to play in fixing that.

Gallant further highlighted the need for prompt action to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, emphasizing “now is the time” and “time is running out.”

More broadly, at a time of increasing tension, Gallant highlighted the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he called the most important element of Israel’s security after the IDF.

While in Washington, Gallant met with a range of senior administration officials, as well as House leaders and lawmakers.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said that the two spoke about a range of issues including “ensuring Israel has the support and resources necessary to confront the threats from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and from other Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Houthis in Yemen and militia in Syria.”

“I appreciated Minister Gallant’s long-term perspective and his commitment to ensuring a pathway to a more secure and peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Schneider said. 

A spokesperson for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who led a meeting with GOP committee chairs, told Jewish Insider, “Scalise shared his unwavering support for Israel in its existential fight against terror, his concern about the growing threat to Israel’s security along its northern border and his strong support for continuing to rapidly supply Israel with all the tools it needs to rescue the hostages in Gaza, defeat Hamas, and deter other threats including Hezbollah and Iran.”

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) told JI that “the discussion was very helpful, and it’s clear that his trip has been productive. Minister Gallant is focused on dismantling the military capabilities of Hamas, which the IDF is very close to having achieved. He is also determined to get the hostages home, aid into Gaza and ensure that Hezbollah and Iran in the north stand down and move back. The United States shares these goals, as do most global leaders.”

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