TEL AVIV, Israel — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, called on Israel to work with moderate Palestinians and neighboring countries on plans for postwar Gaza, saying they were willing to help rebuild and govern the territory but only if there is a “pathway to a Palestinian state.”
The US and Israel are united in the war against Hamas but sharply divided over Gaza’s future, with Washington and its Arab allies hoping to revive the long-moribund peace process, an idea that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners sharply oppose.
The war in Gaza is still raging, with no end in sight, and fueling a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny coastal enclave. The fighting has also stoked escalating violence between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants that has raised fears of a wider conflict.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting with top Israeli leaders, Blinken said Israel “must stop taking steps that undercut the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves effectively.”
Israel, he added “must be a partner of the Palestinian leaders who are willing to lead their people” and live “side by side in peace with Israel.” Settler violence, settlement expansion, home demolitions and evictions “all make it harder, not easier, for Israel to achieve lasting peace and security.”
US officials have called for the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to take the reins in Gaza. Israeli leaders have rejected that idea but have not put forward a concrete plan beyond saying they will maintain open-ended military control over the territory.
Blinken has said that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey agreed to begin planning for the reconstruction and governance of Gaza once the war ends. The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are set to meet Wednesday in Jordan’s southern Red Sea city of Aqaba.
The United States, which has provided crucial military and diplomatic support for Israel’s offensive, has pressed it to shift to more precise operations targeting Hamas. But the pace of death and destruction has remained largely the same, with hundreds killed in recent days.
Israel has vowed to keep going until it destroys Hamas, which triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and abducted around 250 others, nearly half of whom were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November.
Since the war began, Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians, roughly one percent of the territory’s population, and more than 58,000 people have been wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.