U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled Monday the U.S. still was not joining calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers as fighting entered its second week, with more than 200 people dead, most of them Palestinians in Gaza.
Blinken’s stand comes despite growing pressure from the United States’ United Nations Security Council partners, some Democrats and others for President Joe Biden’s administration and other international leaders to wade more deeply into diplomacy to end the worst Israel-Palestinian violence in years and revive long-collapsed mediation for a lasting peace there.
Speaking in Copenhagen, where Blinken is making an unrelated tour of Nordic countries this week, Blinken ticked off U.S. outreach so far to try to de-escalate hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel, and said he would be making more calls Monday.
“In all of these engagements we have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a cease-fire,” Blinken said.
He said he welcomed efforts by the U.N. — where the United States has so far blocked a proposed Security Council statement on the fighting — and other nations working for a cease-fire.
“Any diplomatic initiative that advances that prospect is something that we’ll support,” he said. “And we are again willing and ready to do that. But ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a cease-fire.”
As battles between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers surged to their worst levels since 2014 and the international outcry grew, the Biden administration — determined to wrench U.S. foreign policy focus away from the Middle East and Afghanistan — has declined so far to criticize Israel’s part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region. Appeals by other countries so far show no sign of progress.
Pulling back from Middle East diplomacy to focus on other policy priorities — like Biden’s emphasis on dealing with the rise of China — carries political risk for the administration either way. That includes weathering any blame when violence flares as the U.S. steps back from conflict zones in the Middle East, and Afghanistan. But a relatively hands-off approach from the administration in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict also could spare Biden officials years of shuttle diplomacy in support of a peace process that neither side actively supports.
At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes as of Monday, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,300 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier. SOVEREIGNPH