Defense Secretary Benny Gantz will travel to the United States this week to meet with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin, his office said Sunday.
Gantz will take off on Wednesday and is expected to meet with the Pentagon chief the following morning (around 3pm Thursday, Israeli time) in Washington. His office did not provide details on the nature of the meeting.
The upcoming meeting comes as tensions between Israel and the United States are high, amid an investigation into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed last week while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen. during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin, as well as the brutal arrests at his funeral on Friday.
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After meeting with Austin, the Secretary of Defense is expected to speak with bereaved families and other members of the Jewish community in New York and Miami, according to a schedule released by Gantz’s office.
Gantz’s last meeting with Austin at the Pentagon was in December, and the two men discussed bilateral ties, the Iranian threat, and Israel’s qualitative military advantage in the Middle East.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the family of the slain Al Jazeera journalist on Sunday, as Israel faced a wave of international criticism of Israeli police behavior at his funeral.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “executing” Abu Akleh. Israeli officials, including Gantz, initially said Palestinian gunmen were likely to have shot the reporter by mistake, before adding that even a stray bullet from an IDF sniper could have killed her.
Israel insists it cannot definitively determine who shot her without examining the bullet removed from her neck, Channel 12 reported on Friday, adding that Israel has requested US assistance to persuade the Palestinian Authority to cooperate.
Scenes showing Israeli police using force against Palestinians carrying the reporter’s coffin out of the Jerusalem hospital where her body was located, nearly knocking it over, were widely condemned on Friday. The incident was described as “deeply disturbing” by the White House and the European Union had expressed its “dismay”.
Police say the coffin was seized by a mob against the will of the family outside St. Joseph’s hospital in Jerusalem, prompting police intervention. Abu Akleh’s brother, however, said the bereaved family and loved ones wanted to organize a “small procession” but were “bombed” by police as they left the hospital.
Blinken had previously said he was “deeply troubled” by the actions of the Israeli police and the State Department called for a transparent investigation into the young woman’s murder.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Iran and world powers on restoring a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since mid-March, reportedly due to Iran’s request that Washington withdraw its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from US list of terrorist entities, a request the US denied.
According to recent reports, Israeli officials recently indicated that the US administration is closer than ever to acknowledging its own failure than President Joe Biden’s stated goal of restoring the 2015 deal.