Blinken Spotlights Plight of Palestinians in Effort to Shore Up Israel-Hamas Truce

Israel has said it will accept a limited number of Palestinian prisoners, in return for Hamas agreeing to a “long-term” ceasefire. But this deal has been described as “a fig leaf” by the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the region, who said the prisoners will still be left isolated and vulnerable.

The Palestine-Israel conflict has been simmering since the early 1970s when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was formed to push for independence and the creation of a state of Palestine. Israel, on the other hand, has always refused to concede the land (the West Bank and Gaza) to Palestinians, nor the right to self-determination. The conflict has been described as the “oldest unresolved conflict in the world” and the “newest ongoing armed conflict” respectively.

The recent agreement between Israel and Hamas is not very well-known, even to American policy-makers. Neither the Obama administration nor Congress has commented publicly on its terms. Yet it is highly significant, and should lead to better understanding of both sides’ intentions.

Tel Aviv – State Secretariat

Anthony Blinken

said Tuesday in Jerusalem that the United States will work to expand economic opportunities for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hamas after 11 days of fighting.

We know that we must use the space we have created to prevent a return to violence to address a broader range of underlying issues and problems, Blinken said with the Israeli prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu,

after their meeting. And that starts with addressing the immense humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Netanyahu said Israel is willing to discuss ways to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the Palestinian economy as a whole in the context of international cooperation, but warned that Israel will respond with force if Hamas violates the ceasefire.

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have worked together for decades, but their friendship is being tested by the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Gerald F. Seib of the WSJ looks back at key moments in the past 15 years of their relationship and what might happen next. Illustration photo: Todd Johnson

Blinken and Netanyahu said they also discussed U.S. efforts to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. The head of the Israeli government has reiterated his opposition to the deal, saying it would not effectively stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.

This week, Blinken will make his first trip to the Middle East as secretary of state, after postponing it because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States, along with its allies Egypt, Qatar and several European countries, tried to convince Israel and the Hamas leadership to give up the 10. May to end the military actions that had begun. Washington has no direct contacts with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is on the US list of terrorist organizations.

A man in Gaza City cleans his shop after the fighting stopped last week.


John Mincillo/Associated Press

The United States and its regional allies are working on a ceasefire and ways to improve the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and break the cycle of violence.

The latest flare-up is the most serious clash since Israel and Hamas fought the last of three wars in 2014. An Islamic group took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. More than 250 people have been killed in the conflict, most of them in Gaza, according to the UN and Israeli authorities.

The scale of the destruction in Gaza is immense: More than 100,000 people have been displaced and 300 buildings containing 1,000 housing units have been destroyed, the UN said.

The Israeli campaign, which Israel said targeted Hamas fighters, infrastructure, weapons and an extensive network of tunnels, has left large parts of Gaza strewn with rubble. Houses and offices were affected, and motorists had to use the sidewalks to avoid the craters and holes in the ground that volunteers and community workers repaired in recent days.

The damage in Israel is much less because it is protected by the Iron Dome defense system, built and maintained with $1.6 billion in U.S. funds. Blinken said that during talks with Netanyahu, he discussed the resupply of missile defense systems for Israel.


What steps can the United States take to improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis affected by the conflict? Join the discussion below.

American and Israeli officials say they want to prevent the reconstruction from helping Hamas rearm after the latest round of fighting. Israeli officials accuse Hamas of using funds intended for reconstruction after previous conflicts to build rockets and dig tunnels under Gaza and into Israel.

We will work with our partners … to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from reconstruction aid, Blinken said Tuesday.

But Hamas says it wants the aid to be channeled through a militant group, an early sign of the difficulty of the reconstruction process in Gaza.

American and Israeli officials believe that the Palestinian Authority, a moderate, Western-backed government that largely governs Palestinians in the West Bank, has an important role to play in rebuilding Gaza.

Bassem Naim, head of Hamas’ international relations office, said conditions in Gaza will not improve in the long term unless the world is willing to negotiate directly with Hamas. We are ready to work with the international community, with the United States, when it comes to getting money, he said.

After meeting with Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, including the Foreign Minister

Gabi Ashkenazi

and the Minister of Defense

Benny Ganz,

in Jerusalem, Mr. Blinken traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with the President of the Palestinian Authority.

Mahmoud Abbas

and other senior Palestinian officials.

Blinken said part of his mission there would be to restore relations with the Palestinian Authority, after Abbas severed ties with Washington in late 2017 following the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. While Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Blinken stated that the United States will help promote civilian projects for Palestinians in the West Bank and will later announce its own contribution to the effort.

Corrections and additions
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. An earlier version of this article misspelled his last name: Anthony. (corrected May 25)

Israeli-Palestinian crisis

-Felicia Schwartz in Gaza City contributed to this article.

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