December 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Blinken Sends Mixed Messages to Jerusalem

December 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Blinken Sends Mixed Messages to Jerusalem

Latest Developments

In Israel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed the necessity of Hamas’s expulsion from Gaza yet insisted Israel should prosecute the war differently to retain American support. “Hamas cannot remain in control of Gaza,” Blinken said on November 30. Nevertheless, he made clear to the Israelis “the imperative that before any operations go forward in southern Gaza that there be a clear plan in place that puts a premium on protecting civilians.”

The secretary acknowledged that any efforts to prevent the loss of innocent life are “made more complicated by the fact that Hamas intentionally embeds itself with civilians, within and below hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, refugee camps.” Blinken did not explain how Israel could ensure a reduction in civilian casualties if Hamas is determined to exploit Gaza’s population as he described. Still, he insisted, Israel “is capable of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas while minimizing harm to innocent men, women, and children.”

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration is setting the stage to abandon Israel. What started off as ‘We are totally with you in destroying Hamas, which is as bad as ISIS,’ is deteriorating into ‘You don’t have our support unless you can dismantle Hamas very quickly with very limited civilian casualties.’ That’s impossible, as Secretary Blinken well knows.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Troubling messages from both President Biden and Secretary Blinken indicate that the clock is ticking on U.S. support for the war. In order to return a sense of security and normalcy to Israel, the Jewish state has no choice but to return to the war and defeat Hamas, which could take months. Israel may ultimately have to resist its greatest ally in order to win the war against the Iran-backed terror regime in Gaza.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

A Change in Emphasis

In an interview two weeks ago, Blinken placed the onus on Hamas to reduce the war’s toll on civilians, while castigating those who blame Israel. “I don’t hear the cry for Hamas to respect international humanitarian law,” he said, “for Hamas to maybe get out of the buildings, to get out of the hospitals, to get out of the schools so that civilians aren’t endangered; for Hamas to surrender.”

While noting that Israel “has an absolute obligation to do everything possible to avoid harming civilians,” Blinken emphasized that Israeli forces had “opened up corridors so that people could get out of harm’s way. More than a million people have left Gaza City. They put in place some limited pauses to facilitate that. They brought in assistance to the hospitals themselves.”

Having It Both Ways

This week in Tel Aviv, Blinken made comments that echoed his earlier remarks at the same time as he put pressure on Israel. “Hamas could lay down its arms, surrender the leaders who are responsible for the slaughter, the torture, the rapes of October 7, he said. “Hamas could renounce its stated goal of eliminating Israel, killing Jews, and repeating the atrocities of October 7 again and again and again.” Likewise, the secretary insisted, the world should demand that Hamas immediately stop its murderous acts of terror and deplorable use of innocent men, women, and children as human shields.”

Blinken met with the Israeli prime minister and war cabinet on November 30 in Jerusalem, where Israel’s top general reportedly warned the visiting secretary that finishing the war would take “more than a few additional weeks.” An account of the meeting leaked to the Israeli press portrayed Blinken making extensive demands of the Israelis without making the supportive statements he did in public.

Hamas Renews Attacks on Israel as Pause in Fighting Ends,” FDD Flash Brief

Residents of Hamas Stronghold In Southern Gaza Urged to Evacuate,” FDD Flash Brief

10 Things to Know About Hamas and Hospitals,” FDD Insight


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