Following Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and Israel's decision to launch an assault against Hamas in Gaza, global eyes have been on the U.S. to see the role Israel’s most powerful ally will play in the ongoing conflict.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been walking a diplomatic tightrope amid the conflict in Gaza. He has put increasing pressure on Israel to protect civilians, especially as Israel restarted its ground offensive and bombing campaign in Gaza on Dec. 1 after a weeklong ceasefire with Hamas that led to more humanitarian aid and the release of Hamas hostages and Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas killed 1,200 people in its Oct. 7 attack and is still reportedly holding more than 100 hostages. Meanwhile, Israeli bombing of Gaza has reportedly killed more than 17,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
As the conflict continues to escalate, here’s everything Blinken has said about the Israel-Hamas war.
Blinken condemns Hamas attacks
On the day of Hamas’ unprecedented assault against Israel, Blinken made his stance known in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
“We unequivocally condemn the appalling attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israel,” he wrote. “We stand in solidarity with the government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks.”
Blinken tells Israel "we will always be there by your side"
Blinken expressed unconditional support for Israel during a visit on Oct. 12, less than a week after Hamas’ attack. In a statement given to reporters at Tel Aviv airport, he said “the United States has Israel’s back” every day.
At a joint press conference in Tel Aviv beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken again pledged solidarity. "You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself. But as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to. We will always be there by your side,” Blinken said.
Blinken condemned the "heinous attacks" by Hamas and said the actions of the militant group bring to mind “the worst of ISIS.” The U.S. mourned "the loss of every innocent life,” he said, and urged Israeli restraint to protect civilians in Gaza. "It's so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians."
Blinken envisions Palestinians realizing their legitimate right to self-determination
Blinken told the United Nations Security Council in New York City on Oct. 24 that the region faces two paths—one that led to death and destruction and the other to greater peace, with Palestinians “realizing their legitimate right to self-determination and a state of their own.”
“Nothing would be a greater victory of Hamas than allowing its brutality to send us down its path of terrorism and nihilism. We must not let it. Hamas does not get to choose for us,” he said. “The United States stands ready to work with anyone ready to forge a more peaceful and free future for the region.”
Blinken supports military aid for Israel
Blinken testified before Congress on Oct. 31 in support of the Biden administration’s $105 billion national security funding request that included $14 billion for Israel and $61 billion for Ukraine. Blinken argued in a Senate hearing that the two conflicts were connected. “In both Israel and Ukraine, democracies are fighting ruthless foes who are out to annihilate them,” he said.
Protesters opposed to military funding to Israel and interrupted Blinken’s remarks, with a group raising hands covered in a red substance to resemble blood. Blinken responded to the protesters, acknowledging their passion.
“All of us are committed to the protection of civilian life. All of us know the suffering that is taking place as we speak. All of us are determined to see it end,” he said. “But all of us know the imperative of standing up with our allies and partners when their security, when their democracies, are threatened. That’s what’s happening now. We stand resolutely with them even as we stand resolutely for the protection of innocent civilians.”
Blinken says a two-state solution is the only path to peace
Blinken said in a press conference on Nov. 3 that the U.S. is committed to a two-state solution for Israeli and Palestinian states.
“The best viable path, indeed the only path, is through a two-state solution,” he said. “The only way to end the cycle of violence once and for all.”
Blinken says Palestinian "civilians should not suffer the consequences" for Hamas
Blinken said on Nov. 3 that Israel must conduct its war against Hamas in a “right and lawful” way.
“There are no partners for peace if they’re consumed by humanitarian catastrophes and alienated by any perceived indifference to their plight,” he said, adding that empathy is what binds us together as human beings.
“I’ve seen images, too, of Palestinian children, young girls and boys, pulled from the wreckage of buildings. When I see that, when I look into their eyes, through the TV screen, I see my own children. How can we not?” he asked.
Blinken accused Hamas of not caring for the welfare of the Palestinian people and using civilians as human shields, but added that “civilians should not suffer the consequences for its inhumanity and brutality.”
Blinken argues a ceasefire would give Hamas an advantage
Blinken said a ceasefire in Gaza would allow Hamas to regroup and carry out further attacks. He made the comments on Nov. 4 in Jordan after holding talks with Arab leaders, who called for an end to fighting and argued Israel's actions go beyond self-defense.
Blinken responded that “it is important to reaffirm Israel's right to defend itself, indeed its obligation to do so, and to take necessary steps so that Oct. 7 can never happen again, but it’s also very important the way Israel does that.”
Blinken says keeping conflict from spreading is a top priority
Speaking to reporters in Baghdad on Nov. 5, Blinken said a top priority of the U.S. and allies in the region is for the conflict to not spread beyond Israel and Gaza.
“We also share the interest—and an interest that’s shared with virtually everyone in the region—to make sure that the conflict in Gaza doesn’t spread to other places, whether it’s here or elsewhere in the region,” Blinken said. “So everyone is looking to take the necessary steps, use their authority, use their influence to try to make sure that this stops and doesn’t happen.”
Blinken welcomes humanitarian pauses in Gaza fighting
Blinken said in a press conference in Iraq on Nov. 5 that every leader he met on his Middle East tour had welcomed humanitarian pauses to the fighting in Gaza, saying it would help them accomplish the common goals of freeing hostages and getting more aid to Palestinian civilians.
On Nov. 9, the U.S. announced that Israel had agreed to four-hour daily humanitarian pauses. Blinken said a key potential advantageous outcome of the humanitarian pause was freeing hostages. Hamas has so far released two American and two Israeli hostages. “We are intensely focused” on bringing them home, Blinken said about the remaining hostages.
Blinken says Hamas can’t run Gaza, but Israel can’t occupy it either
Blinken addressed Gaza’s future at the end of a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan on Nov. 8, saying Hamas can’t run Gaza and Israel can’t reoccupy it, although he said its troops may be there temporarily. “Gaza cannot… continue to be run by Hamas; that simply invites repetition of Oct. 7,” he said. However, he flagged that “it’s also clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza."
He reasoned: "The reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict, but it is imperative that the Palestinian people be central to governance in Gaza and in the West Bank as well, and that, again, we don’t see a reoccupation. And what I’ve heard from Israeli leaders is that they have no intent to reoccupy Gaza and retake control of Gaza.”
Blinken said the U.S. vision involved “no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza—not now, not after the war."
“[There should be] no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza. We must also ensure no terrorist threats can emanate from the West Bank,” he said.
Blinken condemns Gaza death toll
Blinken lamented the rising death toll and said more must be done to protect Palestinian civilians on Nov. 10.
"Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks,” Blinken was quoted as telling reporters in New Delhi as he wrapped up a trip to the Middle East and Asia. "We want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.”
Blinken urges Israel to put a premium on civilian protection
Blinken told reporters in Israel on Dec. 1, at the end of a weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas, that “after the pause it was imperative that Israel put in place clear protections for civilians and for sustaining humanitarian assistance going forward.”
Blinken called out the need for Israel to better protect civilians once again during a Dec. 7 news conference in Washington D.C. alongside British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.
The Secretary of State told reporters there had been several positive developments, including evacuating neighborhoods instead of entire cities in Gaza and the creation of “deconfliction areas” to coordinate with humanitarian aid organizations to ensure workers are not in targeted areas, the Times of Israel reported.
But Blinken said that “as we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south after the end of the humanitarian pause, it is imperative—it remains imperative—that Israel put a premium on civilian protection, and there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there, the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”
Blinken said to ensure protection, it was important to not only have safe areas, but clear communications on when and where people can go, “daily pauses” in broader areas to allow civilians to evacuate, and food, water and medicine resources in the zones to which people evacuate.
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