Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the Press

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the Press

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hello, everyone.  I just met with the families of the American hostages in Gaza.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet with them many times now, on every trip here to the region, when they visited Washington.  And as always, it’s an incredibly powerful thing.  It’s hard for any of us to put ourselves in their shoes, to feel what they’ve been feeling these many, many long months.  They were elated at the rescue of four hostages just a couple of days ago, but they continue to feel deeply, powerfully this enduring separation from their loved ones – men and women, civilian and soldier, alive and deceased.  But for me, all of the hostages – but especially our eight American families who have loved ones in Gaza – we are determined to bring them home.

The proposal that President Biden put forward is the best way to do that.  And I think as I said just yesterday, you’ve had country after country make that clear in supporting the proposal, and then yesterday the United Nations Security Council in effect speaking for the entire international community made it as clear as it possibly could be that this is what the world is looking for.  Fourteen votes for, no votes against – something quite rare at the Security Council these days.  And I think that speaks volumes, too.

So everyone’s vote is in, except for one vote, and that’s Hamas.  And that’s what we wait for.  It is on Hamas to move forward with this proposal, or – or not.  And it’s very clear what, as I said, virtually the entire international community wants to see, and of course what so many families want to see.  And it’s also what the people of Gaza so desperately need.  We have the prospect of an immediate ceasefire, building toward an enduring one, and tremendous relief for people in Gaza; but also opening prospects for Israel to build enduring security, which is what this country needs and has wanted from day one of its existence, integration in the region with its neighbors, being able also to make sure that people who’ve been forced from their homes in the north can return home, building a future that provides the kind of enduring security that Israel has not enjoyed.  This proposal and moving forward on it is the first step also down that path and in that direction.  So we want to see it come to fruition.

I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night, and he reaffirmed his commitment to the proposal.  I also had an opportunity to speak to Defense Minister Gallant and other senior Israelis this morning.  And I think there is a strong consensus, again, behind moving forward with the proposal, but it really is down to one person at this point.  We’ll see what comes from them, and from him.

Now, we are also – President Biden is resolutely committed to Israel’s security, and to its defense.  He is the first American president to come to Israel during a time of war, the first American president to commit American forces to help defend Israel when it was under attack from Iran in April.  And we’re committed to the defeat of Hamas, to ensure that it can’t govern Gaza again.  We also believe strongly that while military means have been necessary, they’re not sufficient, and there has to be a clear political plan, a clear humanitarian plan, in order to ensure that Hamas does not in any way, shape, or form resume control of Gaza and that Israel can move forward toward more enduring security.

And that’s why even as we’ve been working on this hostage ceasefire proposal, even as we’ve been working to try to make sure that the conflict doesn’t spread to other parts of the region, we’ve also been working on day after plans for Gaza – security, governance, rebuilding.  And we’ve been doing that in conversation, consultation with many partners throughout the region.  Those conversations will continue this afternoon and in the next couple of days, and it’s imperative that we have these plans, that we’re ready to go, and simply put, we’re not going to get to the day after if we don’t have plans for the day after.  So I’m working resolutely on those.

But the first step, the most important step, is getting agreement on the proposal that President Biden put forward, and moving on from there.

Questions?

MR MILLER:  Michael.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Michael.

QUESTION:  So just to follow up on what you said about your meeting with the prime minister, did you get an explicit assurance that he would – if Hamas accepts the proposal that’s on the table, that the deal is done, that he reciprocally or he continues support for it, that he will – that will clinch things?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.  Yes.

QUESTION:  And can you just tell us, related to that, how do you reconcile what seems to be a difference between the Hamas position that there has to be an Israeli assurance of a permanent ceasefire as part of this process in phase two, I guess; and the prime minister’s statement that talk of a permanent ceasefire is a total non-starter?  That seems like an irreconcilable difference.  How do you see that being solved?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, what the proposal does is it brings an immediate ceasefire, and it commits the parties to negotiate an enduring ceasefire.  And that will be a process of negotations, but the commitment in agreeing to the proposal is to seek that enduring ceasefire, but that has to be negotiated.  As long as those negotiations are ongoing, the ceasefire that would take place immediately would remain in place, which is manifestly good for everyone.  And then we’ll have to see, but you’re not going to get to phase two, to an enduring ceasefire, unless you start with phase one.  So that’s where it begins.

MR MILLER:  Shaun.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, can I follow up on the Security Council resolution?  Hamas issued a statement in support of it, essentially.  Do you see this as a hopeful sign that they might be leaning toward accepting it?  What more needs to be done to persuade Hamas to accept the ceasefire too?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’d say it is a hopeful sign, just as the statement that they issued after the President made his proposal ten days ago was hopeful, but it’s not dispositive.  What is dispositive, at least what’s so far been dispositive one way or another, is the word coming from Gaza and from the Hamas leadership in Gaza.  That’s what counts, and that’s what we don’t have yet.  And that’s why I say we’re waiting to see.  Everyone has said yes except for Hamas.  And if Hamas doesn’t say yes, then this is clearly on them – on them in terms of a vote to continue the war, not end it; on them in terms of the safety, the well-being of hundreds of thousands, millions of Palestinian women, children, and men in Gaza; on them in terms of the safety, and stability, security of Israel as well; the region as a whole, because the longer this goes on, the more chance there is, again, for the conflict to spread, for us to see problems evolve in other places.  We’ve been working every single day to prevent that from happening.  So far we have, but again, the longer this goes on, the greater the risk.

So you – again, I want to come back to the Security Council resolution.  I don’t think the world could be more clear about what country after country, in this region and beyond, are looking for, and that is saying yes to the proposal.  We await the answer from Hamas, and that will speak volumes about what they want, what they’re looking for, who they’re looking after.  Are they looking after one guy who may be pronounced safe, buried – I don’t know – ten stories underground somewhere in Gaza, while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in a crossfire of his own making?  Or will he do what’s necessary to actually move this to a better place, to help end the suffering of people, to help bring real security to Israelis and Palestinians alike?  We’ll see.

QUESTION:  Are there others who could persuade Hamas?  Are there others with influence on Hamas who —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think there are – there are those who have influence, but influence is one thing; actually getting a decision made is another thing.  I don’t think anyone other than the Hamas leadership in Gaza actually are the ones who can make – make decisions.  That’s what we’re waiting on.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-remarks-to-the-press-24/

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