US Vice President Kamala Harris was meeting Monday with Benny Gantz -- an Israeli war cabinet member and key rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- in a sign of growing White House frustration with Israel's offensive in Gaza.

The talks come a day after Democrat Harris, who is campaigning for a second term with President Joe Biden, called for an immediate ceasefire and issued Washington's sharpest rebuke yet over the lack of aid for Palestinians.

The visit also highlights tensions in the Israeli government as Gantz, a former Israeli military chief and centrist opposition leader, has been at odds with the right-wing Netanyahu on finding an exit strategy to the five-month-old war with Hamas.

"With friends, we should always speak openly, and that's what we're going to do," Gantz, who joined the war cabinet as a minister without portfolio after the October 7 attacks, told reporters as he arrived at the White House.

Harris, 59, called Sunday for Hamas and Israel to agree on an immediate ceasefire -- and used unusually strong language to criticize Israel for not letting in enough aid to Gaza.

"The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses," Harris said.

She said Monday that her talks with Gantz would focus on "getting a hostage deal done, getting aid in, and then getting that six week ceasefire" that Israel and Hamas are currently negotiating.

Harris also denied any discord between herself and Biden, 81, after her remarks on Sunday went further than the president had previously done in criticizing Israel.

"The president and I have been aligned and consistent from the very beginning," Harris told reporters at an event before her talks with Gantz.

- 'Trojan horse' -

Gantz will also meet National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House, and separately meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The White House said Gantz had requested the meeting but played down suggestions that it could cause tensions with Netanyahu, adding that they "certainly recognize" Netanyahu as prime minister.

Israel had presented a "forward leaning" proposal for the ceasefire which it was now up to Hamas to accept, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

A ceasefire would be a major domestic win for Biden to be able to trumpet during his State of the Union speech on Thursday.

Biden faces acute pressure in an election year over his steadfast support for Israel and over Gaza's soaring civilian death toll, which the health ministry there put at 30,534, mostly women and children.

Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas after its unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

A Netanyahu critic often touted as a possible replacement should the Israeli prime minister fall, Gantz joined the five-person war cabinet formed after October 7 in a bid to project unity.

But in recent weeks he has pressed Netanyahu on an exit strategy for the war, analysts and Israeli media reports say, with the former defense minister and chief of staff of the armed forces rejecting Netanyahu's stance that only military pressure on Hamas will allow the return of hostages.

Gantz's US visit was criticized by Doudi Amsellem, minister of regional cooperation, in a post on social media platform X that said: "Mr Gantz, your entry into government was intended to create unity at a time of emergency, not to be a Trojan horse".

Israel has said it believes 130 of the original 250 captives taken by Hamas remain in the besieged territory, but that 31 have been killed.



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