Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his envoy reached out to Palestinian and regional Arab leaders on Tuesday as attacks between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers raged on, maintaining what the Biden administration is calling its quiet diplomacy while still declining to press for an immediate cease-fire.
Blinken, speaking during an unrelated trip focusing on Russia and Nordic countries, also defended the US decision to block what would have been a unanimous UN Security Council statement on the fighting and its civilian toll, and the overall US approach to the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting since 2014. President Joe Biden, speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, expressed general support for a cease-fire but stopped short of joining dozens of Democratic lawmakers in demanding one.
“Our goal remains to bring the current cycle of violence to an end” and then return to a process in which a lasting peace can be forged, the US diplomat said.Blinken said he had spoken to the foreign ministers of Morocco and Bahrain, two Arab countries that recently have moved to normalize relations with Israel, while US envoy Hady Amr in Israel spoke with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The ongoing US outreach — reflecting an administration that has emphasized working with allies, and has refrained from publicly criticizing ally Israel — came as new Hamas rockets and Israeli airstrikes continued for the ninth day. At least 213 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel have died. Efforts by Egypt and others to mediate a truce have stalled.
Biden’s carefully worded statement expressing general support for a cease-fire, in a White House readout Monday of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its reluctance to challenge Israel’s actions in its part of the fighting. The administration also has expressed its determination to wrench the main US foreign policy focus away from Middle East hotspots and Afghanistan.
Biden’s comments on a cease-fire were open-ended and similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire.Biden also “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” the White House said in its readout.