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Israel cancels Washington talks after cease-fire vote clears the U.N.


The U.S. and Israel, historically close allies, are increasingly at odds.


In the latest rift yesterday, Israel canceled a high-level delegation to Washington after the U.S. declined to block a United Nations resolution for a cease-fire in Gaza. Instead, it abstained.

ELLIOTT: To find out more about what's driving these divisions, we're joined by NPR's Jennifer Ludden, who's in Tel Aviv. Good morning, Jennifer.


ELLIOTT: This was a real break for the U.S. to allow this resolution to go through yesterday. What got us here?

LUDDEN: You know, I would say it is the death toll in Gaza. It's now more than 32,000, according to Gaza health officials. The Israeli public largely supports the war there and the government's goal of destroying Hamas, which, you know, led the October 7 assault that killed 1,200 people, according to Israel. But in the U.S., there has been a shift in opinion. Younger people especially are less likely to support Israel. It is also an election year. President Biden has faced serious blowback, especially from Arab Americans, for his support of Israel.

The depth of this rift with Israel, I think, was really revealed in a stunning moment earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish and as staunch a supporter of Israel as you can find, he took to the floor of Congress to denounce the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And he even encouraged elections to replace him. I mean, that's just something that would have been unimaginable before now.

ELLIOTT: U.S. officials are trying to downplay this rift. They say they're actually looking out for Israel's best interests. What is their point here?

LUDDEN: Well, so publicly the administration is saying it is, quote, "perplexed" by Israel's objection over the U.N. resolution. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said it did not represent a change in the U.S. position. Let's listen.


JOHN KIRBY: It seems like the prime minister's office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here, when they don't need to do that.

LUDDEN: But behind the scenes, there is a lot of worry. My colleague Daniel Estrin obtained an internal State Department memo which said that Israel faces a serious hit to its reputation worldwide over its unpopular offensive war in Gaza, even possible, quote, "generational damage," but that Israel was denying this. And it said that both Israel and the U.S. face a major credibility problem. And yet, at every turn, we have seen Israel openly defy the U.S. Last week, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken was here for cease-fire talks, Israel announced its largest seizure of West Bank land in decades. Netanyahu has rejected U.S. efforts to avoid a major deadly ground assault in Rafah. He says he's already approved a plan for that, and he will invade whether or not the U.S. supports it.

ELLIOTT: All these disagreements are focused on Gaza. We're closing in on six months now of the Israeli military action there. Remind us, what's the situation on the ground?

LUDDEN: You know, it's really hard to overstate just how desperate it is. Israel controls the entry of food aid trucks, and for months there have not been nearly enough. Israel says it does not want the aid to benefit Hamas. But Palestinians say their children cry all day from extreme hunger. They're reduced to eating animal feed. And the U.N. says famine is imminent and Israel's military offensive is continuing. It says it's targeting Hamas militants who hole up in places like hospitals. But Gaza health officials say civilians are getting caught up and killed in the fighting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.