US Secretary of State Antony Blinken credited the “relentless, determined, but quiet diplomacy” of Joe Biden’s administration with brokering the unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which came into force on 21 May.
The truce, coming after 11 days that witnessed the most deadly spiral of violence the region had seen in years, was “critical” to allow the US “to make a pivot to building something more positive”, stated Blinken, appearing on ABC News on Sunday.
While reiterating that the Biden administration supports a "two-state solution" of the conflict, which envisions an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, he underscored that Washington would seek “equal measures of security” for Israelis and Palestinians.
On calls for a two-state solution, Sec. of State Blinken tells @GStephanopoulos, "ultimately it is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, and...the only way to give Palestinians the state to which they're entitled." https://t.co/SyOM0qHAxB pic.twitter.com/I8OlO54eLl— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 23, 2021
“… Ultimately, it is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state and, of course, the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they're entitled. That's where we have to go. But that, I don't think, is something for today,” said Blinken.
Addressing the current situation in the areas that suffered the most from the recent conflagration, which involved rocket attacks and airstrikes that left 243 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, the US Secretary of State said:
“That has to start now with dealing with the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza. Then reconstruction, rebuilding what’s been lost. And critically, engaging both sides in trying to start to make real improvements in the lives of people so that Israelis and Palestinians can live with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity.”
The region faces a challenging rebuilding effort as Gaza’s water and power infrastructure have been damaged, with many countries pledging to fund the effort.
Blinken also underscored that it was vitally important that there be “equal measures” of security and opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis.
Weighing in on the issue of how the US pledge to support rebuilding efforts in Gaza would be fulfilled without funding Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip, Blinken said the administration would rely on “trusted, independent parties that can help do the reconstruction and the development, not some quasi-government authority”.
He added that Hamas “has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people”.
‘Rubberstamping Arms Sales’
Blinken was asked how the recent statements by President Joe Biden touting diplomacy efforts to allow Palestinians and Israelis to “live safely and securely' tie in with Washington to Israel, recently decried by the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Deflecting the question, the US Secretary of State responded:
“One of the things I don’t do in this job is I don’t do politics. I focus on the policies. So I’ll leave the politics to others.”
US President Joe Biden on Thursday hailed the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in a speech at the White House, saying he had reiterated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington fully supported Tel Aviv’ “right to defend itself”, and vowed to help "replenish" its Iron Dome defense system.
As Biden confirmed the US would join international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, he added this would be carried out with the Palestinian Authority "in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal."
"I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy," Biden said.
However, the pledge did not meet with universal approval among US lawmakers.
GOP Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Ted Cruz of Texas called for federal funds allocated by the Biden administration for Gaza-based humanitarian aid to be redirected "to help Israel replenish its highly-effective missile defense interceptors."
The Republican senators’ move followed an effort by a group of progressive Democratic lawmakers earlier this week to block the sale of $735 million-worth of American precision-guided weapons to Israel.
Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMS, which can transform so-called “dumb” bombs into precision-guided missiles, on 5 May, ahead of the latest outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2021
We have a responsibility to protect human rights. https://t.co/OctBNYFpwp
New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had introduced the appropriate House resolution on Wednesday, joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc.
.@SenSanders introduces a resolution to block a $735 million weapons sale to Israel: “At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a Congressional debate” pic.twitter.com/W7vXWVHnuc— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) May 20, 2021
On Thursday, US Senator Bernie Sanders also submitted a similar joint resolution of disapproval (JRD) to block the sale to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.