Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke of the U.S. vision for Gaza once the Israel-Hamas war ends, seemingly drawing a contrast with Israel’s plans for the besieged territory.
Speaking from Tokyo, where he attended a Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting, Blinken said the U.S. is focused on creating the conditions for lasting peace in the region once the fighting is over. He reiterated President Joe Biden’s position that while things cannot return to the status quo with Hamas in charge, Israel should not reoccupy Gaza. Blinken also emphasized the administration’s support for a two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state down the line.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spread alarm on Monday when he said Israel “for an indefinite period will have the overall security responsibility” of the besieged territory.
“When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine,” Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News.
While Blinken conceded an interim period may be needed before new leadership emerges in Gaza, he explicitly opposed the reoccupation of the territory.
“The reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict, but it is imperative that the Palestinian people be central to governance in Gaza and in the West Bank as well, and that, again, we don’t see a reoccupation,” he said. “And what I’ve heard from Israeli leaders is that they have no intent to reoccupy Gaza and retake control of Gaza.”
Blinken did not specify how long the U.S. expects a so-called “transition period” to last.
Former Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who sits on Israel’s war cabinet, told reporters Wednesday that his country will “review an alternative mechanism for Gaza” once the fighting is done.
“I do not know what it will be,” he said. “But I do know what cannot be there — an active presence of Hamas with governance and military capabilities.”
Gantz added that there are “no limitations” to how long Israel’s war against Hamas could last. Some have warned that a continuation of the fighting ― which has led to death of over 10,500 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry ― could cause Israel to eventually lose support within the international community for its war effort.
Both the U.S. and Israel appear to be in agreement that Hamas can no longer rule Gaza following the unprecedented Oct. 7 attack that killed over 1,400 Israelis, according to the country’s authorities. But Blinken said the path forward must include “Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority,” which Israel hasn’t so far endorsed as a possible scenario.
The Palestinian Authority is led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who was expelled from Gaza when Hamas took power in the territory in 2007 but still governs part of the West Bank.
Abbas remains unpopular with Palestinians. Besides, according to The Associated Press, Abbas ruled out ruling over Gaza post-war unless a long-term diplomatic solution is found.
“I will not return on top of an Israeli tank,” Abbas allegedly told Blinken, AP reported citing two Palestinian officials.