Israel-Hamas cease-fire put US in position 'to building something more positive': Blinken

The cease-fire came after nearly two weeks of violence between Israel and Hamas.

May 23, 2021, 11:50 AM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC's "This Week" that Thursday's cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was "critical" to putting the United States in a position "to make a pivot to building something more positive," placing a heavy emphasis on the need for a two-state solution for the region.

"That has to start now with dealing with the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza. Then reconstruction, rebuilding what's -- 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," Blinken told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

The Biden administration's top diplomat underscored the president's commitment to a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel as the "only way" forward for the region, but noted that would not happen immediately.

"Look, 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," Blinken said.

"But that, I don't think, is something for -- necessarily -- for today," he continued. "We have to start putting in place the conditions that would allow both sides to engage in a meaningful and positive way toward two states."

But Blinken stressed that if that positive engagement was not met, the cycle of violence was likely to continue.

The cease-fire came after nearly two weeks of violence between Israel and Hamas that left more than 250 dead and hundreds more injured. It has held throughout the weekend.

Blinken plans travel to the region in the coming days and will meet with Palestinian, Israeli and regional counterparts to discuss relief efforts.

Stephanopoulos also pressed Blinken on the administration's plan to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza following the violence without aiding Hamas.

"The president said he wants to do that without restocking Hamas -- rebuilding Gaza without restocking Hamas. How do you do that? They're in charge in Gaza," Stephanopoulos asked.

Blinken stressed the U.S.' past work with "trusted independent parties," to help with reconstruction in Gaza, adding the challenge would be to empower Palestinian Authorities.

"The fact of the matter is Hamas has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people. Its gross mismanagement of Gaza while it has been in charge, and, of course, these indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians which have elicited the response that they did because Israel has a right to defend itself," Blinken replied.

"So I think what's the real challenge here is to help the Palestinians and particularly to help moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority deliver better results for their people. And, of course, Israel has a profound role to play in that too," he added.

PHOTO: US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken attends the Arctic Council meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland on May 20, 2021.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken attends the Arctic Council meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland on May 20, 2021.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Stephanopoulos also pressed Blinken on pressure from Progressives in the Democratic Party on U.S. arms sales to Israel, after Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a resolution of disapproval.

Blinken demurred on the intra-party politics, but stressed that the administration was committed to working "in full consultation" with Congress on arms sales.

"The president has been equally clear we're committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself, especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians. Any country would respond to that, and we're committed to Israel's defense," Blinken said.

"At the same time, any arms sale is going to be done in full consultation with Congress, we're committed to that," he added. "And we want to make sure that that process works effectively."

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