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A Popular Israeli Minister’s Meeting in London Sends a Message to Netanyahu

WorldA Popular Israeli Minister’s Meeting in London Sends a Message to Netanyahu

When Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, met David Cameron, Britain’s foreign secretary, in London on Wednesday, he got a sharp message that Israel must do more to allow humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

It was the kind of minister-level meeting that would normally draw modest attention amid the flurry of high-level diplomacy that has enveloped the Israel-Hamas war. But Mr. Gantz and Mr. Cameron are no mere functionaries.

Mr. Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, is a popular political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mr. Netanyahu expressed deep displeasure at what he viewed as an unsanctioned trip by a would-be Israeli leader.

Mr. Cameron, a former prime minister, has enjoyed uncommon latitude as foreign secretary, speaking out forcefully on issues like Gaza and the war in Ukraine on international trips, where he is often treated as though he were still in his old job.

The unusual optics of the meeting — almost two shadow leaders — speak to the peculiar domestic politics in each country. Israel is in the grip of a devastating war that has pulled Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz into a temporary alliance. Britain is in the twilight stages of an era of Conservative-led governments, with a prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who is more occupied with a general election later this year than with foreign policy.

For Britain, diplomats and experts said, deploying Mr. Cameron to deliver a tough message to Israel is valuable because it will register more than if it came from a standard-issue cabinet minister. It also spares Mr. Sunak the political risk of pressing Mr. Netanyahu directly and potentially being rebuffed.

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