Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted Sunday that there will eventually be a prospect for a peaceful political solution between Israel and the Palestinians, saying one must come following a “critical” ceasefire declared in the region last week.
“I think there has to be. I think both sides are reminded that we have to find a way to break the cycle, because if we don’t it will repeat itself at great cost,” Blinken told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on “GPS” when asked if he thinks there is a prospect of some kind of movement toward a genuine political solution.
In a separate interview Sunday with ABC News, Blinken credited the Biden administration’s “relentless, determined, but quiet diplomacy” in the region, saying it’s “what got us to where we needed to be.”
The comments come several days after Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed to a ceasefire following more than a week of conflict that left hundreds dead, most of them Palestinians. Blinken, who told ABC that the ceasefire was “critical,” said the US is now pivoting to “dealing with the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
“Then reconstruction, rebuilding what’s been lost, and critically, engaging both sides in trying to start to make real improvements … so that Israelis and Palestinians can live with equal measures of security of peace and of dignity,” he told the network.
Blinken also refused to say whether the Biden administration would pursue the proposed peace deal brokered under then-President Donald Trump and spearheaded by his son-in-law and former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.
“I don’t think we’re at the — in a place where the getting to some kind of negotiation for what ultimately I think has to be the result, which is a two-state solution, is the first order of business,” he said. “We have to start building back in concrete ways and offering some genuine hope, prospects, opportunities in the lives of people.”
Pressed on whether the US still endorses the plan, Blinken again wouldn’t answer directly, saying: “We’re going to look at everything that has been done before, learn from that just as we have in other areas, and see what makes sense and what doesn’t.”
When he proposed the plan, Trump claimed it was a “realistic two-state solution,” but the plan caters to nearly every major Israeli demand and was immediately rejected by Palestinians.
Blinken was also critical of Hamas, saying the group had brought “nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people,” and asserted that President Joe Biden has been “clear we’re committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself, especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians.”
The secretary plans to travel to the Middle East to meet with “Israeli, Palestinian, and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday in a readout of a call between Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also weighed in on the issue on Sunday, telling CBS News that he thinks the US needs to develop an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and expressed hope that Biden is on the same page.
When asked whether he thinks the Biden administration is being an apologist for the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sanders pointed to the “incredible suffering” in Gaza in the wake of the recent violent conflict and said, “We have to be pro-Israel, but we have to be pro-Palestinian.”
Sanders introduced a resolution last week disapproving of the US sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel and said that he would “absolutely” like to see the same conditions placed on aid from the US to Palestinians to ensure Hamas does not receive American support.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments on a peaceful political solution. The story and the headline have been updated to accurately reflect that Blinken said ‘there has to be’ a prospect for a peaceful political solution between Israel and Palestinians.