Home United States Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks to the Press

Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks to the Press

Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks to the Press
Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks to the Press

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  Ten days ago, President Biden put forward a proposal that would produce an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, get all the hostages home, and put us on a path to an enduring resolution to the conflict in Gaza.  It’s a proposal that is very close to what Hamas itself had agreed to some time before.  Since the President put the proposal forward, countries throughout the region and around the world – as well as international organizations – have all endorsed it.  Israel has accepted it.  And the only outlier in this moment – the only outlier in this moment – is Hamas.

So my message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region is:  If you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes.  If you want to alleviate the terrible suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, press Hamas to say yes.  If you want to get all the hostages home, press Hamas to say yes.  If you want to put Israelis and Palestinians alike on the path to more durable peace and security, press Hamas to say yes.  If you want to prevent this conflict from spreading, press Hamas to say yes.

Now, if we get this ceasefire, it also opens the path to more durable security, calm, peace in Gaza.  And for that, it’s critical that we continue to work on plans for the day after to make sure that when it comes to security in Gaza, when it comes to governance, when it comes to reconstruction, we have the plans in place to move forward.  That’s going to be a critical part of my conversations here in the region, as we go on to Israel and then to Jordan and then to Qatar.

Throughout this process, Egypt has played a critical and a leading role in supporting the proposal to get to a ceasefire and return of hostages, in working on these day-after plans, in being a critical partner as well for getting humanitarian assistance in to the Palestinian people who so desperately need it in Gaza.  And I want to thank President Sisi again for a very good exchange and for all the work we’re doing almost on a daily basis.

In Jordan itself – and we’ll come to this in a day – we’re going to be focused intensely on the humanitarian assistance piece and civilian protection.  Because deal or no deal, it remains absolutely essential that we get more aid to Palestinians who need it, that that aid gets around and distributed to those who are so desperately in need of it, and that we continue to work on protecting civilians and get them out of harm’s way.

Look, I think this is a critical moment, because we see the possibility, we see the prospect of an immediate ceasefire, of getting all the hostages home, of getting on the path to a durable resolution to the conflict in Gaza.  I know that there are those who are pessimistic about the prospects.  That’s understandable.  Hamas continues to show extraordinary cynicism in its actions, a disinterest not only in the well-being and security of Israelis but also Palestinians.  And there are those in the region who are also working against efforts to bring about a ceasefire and a durable peace, who don’t even acknowledge – indeed reject – the existence of Israelis or Palestinians, much less their ability to live side-by-side in peace.

But I believe strongly – this is now my eighth trip to the region since October 7th – that the overwhelming majority of people – whether they’re in Israel, West Bank, in Gaza, throughout the region, around the world – actually want and believe in a future where Israelis and Palestinians alike can live in peace, in security.  And for the United States, we will continue our efforts every single day, first to get this ceasefire, to get hostages home; but second, to try to put everyone in the region on that much better path.

Andrea.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you say that everyone but Hamas has agreed to this.  Benjamin Netanyahu has certainly said otherwise publicly, and hostage families are saying you should try everything if this fails.  And it’s quite possible it will fail with him now toughening his position with his right-wing partners.  If this fails, they want you to work through Qatar and deal with Hamas to get the Americans home.  We are reporting at NBC News that that is being discussed as a backup plan – if no other way to get a ceasefire – doing it without Israel agreeing to a ceasefire agreement.  Tell us about that.  And also if the war continues, won’t the Palestinian death toll be unacceptable, as the national security advisor of Israel has said to the end of the year, after such a horrific death toll in getting the hostages out militarily this weekend?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First, let me be very clear:  Israel has accepted the proposal.  In fact, they were critical in putting it forward.  So the only party —

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, that’s – that is what – that is what the official position of the Israeli Government, the prime minister.  So the only party that has not accepted, the only party that’s not said yes is Hamas.  That’s who everyone is waiting on.  That’s who the Palestinians in Gaza are waiting on, it’s who the Israelis are waiting on, it’s who the hostages and the hostage families are waiting on, it’s who the entire region and the entire world is waiting on.  And so we’ll see.  Does Hamas want to end this conflict, end this war that it started, or not?  We’ll find out.  But it’s clear that virtually the entire world has come together in support of the proposal, and the only open question is will Hamas say yes.  So that’s one.

Second, in terms of the hostages, my number one priority as Secretary of State is to ensure the well-being of Americans who are in harm’s way anywhere in the world, including those who are being unjustly detained or being held hostage.  The best way, the most effective way to get everyone home, including the American hostages, is through this proposal, is through the ceasefire deal that’s on the table right now.  That’s what we’re focused on.  That’s what we’re determined to have – to see achieved.

And finally, Andrea, in terms of civilian suffering, civilian casualties, civilian injuries, the humanitarian assistance, again, the most immediate answer to that question, the best way to ensure that there’s not another civilian casualty, is for this ceasefire deal to go forward, for Hamas to accept it.  It’s as basic and as simple as that.  That’s what’s on the table now; that’s what we need to see an answer to.  That’s what would end the conflict in Gaza; that’s what would prevent more civilian casualties.

QUESTION:  If that’s your top priority, wouldn’t indirect talks for the Americans at least bring those Americans home possibly?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, my top priority always: bring Americans home.  And because of that, the most effective way to do that, to achieve that, to actually get them home is through the proposal that’s on the table.  So let’s see if we get an answer from Hamas.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, after your meeting with Egyptians today, do you have a better sense for when Hamas is actually going to respond to this proposal on the table – it’s been on the table for, as you say, 10 days at this point – and if the raid over the weekend to release those Israeli hostages could have a negative impact on how they respond?  And then you’re also meeting with Benny Gantz tomorrow.  I wonder what your message is to him after his resignation, and if you’re concerned at all – increasingly concerned – about Netanyahu not having an endgame to this war given that that’s the reason that Gantz stepped out of the government.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So on Egypt, first, as I said, we greatly appreciate the critical role that they played in serving as a mediator and trying to get Hamas not only to the table, but to engage and now to say yes.  I can’t go into the details of our conversations today, except to say that our Egyptian counterparts were in communication with Hamas as early – as recently as a few hours ago.  And so I got an —

QUESTION:  Were those conversations hopeful?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, not going to get into any details about that.  But I think Egypt, the United States, other countries believe that, again, we should be able to get to yes.  But ultimately, I can’t put myself, none of us can put ourselves in the minds of Hamas or its leaders.  So we don’t know what the answer will be.  I don’t have anything further on that.  I just know that there’s a sense of urgency among all concerned – starting with us, with Egypt, with all of our Arab partners, the Arab League, countries throughout the region, well beyond – a real urgency in getting an answer and getting an affirmative answer, because it’s the single best way to do what so many people around the world want: to get an immediate ceasefire, get hostages home, put us on a path to enduring peace and security for the people in Gaza and throughout the region.  So we’re working on that.

I think on virtually every trip to the region, including in Israel, I’ve met with leaders in Israel, whether part of the government or not part of the government, and Benny Gantz is someone for whom I have deep respect.  The decisions that the Israelis make about their government, who’s in, who’s out – those are decisions for Israelis to make, not for us.  But I’ll continue to meet with Mr. Gantz and others who lead major political parties in Israel and who are going to be critical to the path forward.

QUESTION:  But based on his decision to step aside, are you increasingly concerned that the prime minister doesn’t have a plan to end the war given what he said?  He’s seen it from the inside.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So – look, you’ve heard me talk to this, and I think if we get a positive response on the ceasefire, that only underscores the urgency of making sure that we do have plans in place for what happens the day after.  Because in the absence of those plans, then one of three things.  Either Israel would have to stay – which it says it doesn’t want to do and we believe it must not do and would be left holding the bag in Gaza and would probably have a major insurgency on his hands for years to come – or in the absence of a plan, it leaves, Hamas returns; or we have a total vacuum, and you just have chaos, lawlessness, criminality, jihadist groups, et cetera.  So it’s imperative that there be a plan, and that has to involve security, it has to involve governance, it has to involve reconstruction.

We’ve spent the last five or so months, since the beginning of the year, working intensively with countries throughout the region on developing these plans, and as I mentioned a few minutes ago, that’s going to be a big part of this trip as well, carrying those conversations forward.  It would be very good if Israel put forward its own ideas on this, and I’ll be talking to the government about that.  But one way or another, we’ve got to have these plans, we’ve got to have them in place, we’ve got to be ready to go if we want to take advantage of a ceasefire and bringing this conflict to an end in a way that actually produces long-term security for Israel.  Because again, in the absence of a long-term plan, in the absence of knowing what you’re going to do post-conflict in Gaza, it’s just a recipe for permanent insecurity for Israel.  It’s not in their interest, and that’s something we’ll be talking about.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks very much.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-press-availability-50/