The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has pledged the Biden administration will deal with “the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza” and will seek “equal measures of security” for Israelis and Palestinians as a ceasefire after 11 days of conflict held throughout the weekend.
More than 240 people in Gaza, including at least 66 children, and a dozen in Israel were killed during the violence, marking the first major diplomatic crisis for the Biden administration.
Blinken told ABC News on Sunday that the ceasefire was “critical” to position the US “to make a pivot to building something more positive” and reiterated that the administration supports a two state solution.
“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,” Blinken said.
“It’s vitally important that Palestinians feel hope and have opportunity, and can live in security just as it is for Israelis, and there should be equal measures,” he added.
Pressed on how the US would support rebuilding efforts in Gaza without funding Hamas, the militant group in power in Gaza, 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 argued that Hamas “has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people”.
Blinken credited Joe Biden’s “relentless, determined, but quiet diplomacy” in brokering the ceasefire but declined to comment on calls within the progressive wing of the Democratic party to curb arms sales to Israel.
“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,” Blinken said.
The president’s public stance on the conflict had also faced criticism from progressive House Democrats including Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American and had urged the Biden to take a firmer position on Israel’s escalation of the violence.
On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders, who this week introduced a resolution in the senate to block the sale of a $735m package of weapons to Israel, urged an “even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
“… You have a very difficult situation. You have Hamas, a terrorist group. You have a rightwing Israeli government, and the situation is getting worse. And all that I’m saying is that the United States of America has got to be leading the world in bringing people together, not simply supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza,” Sanders told CBS news.