State Department employees sign memos urging Biden to call Gaza ceasefire

By | November 14, 2023

Dozens of State Department employees have signed internal memos to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken expressing serious disagreement with the Biden administration’s approach to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, according to U.S. officials. part of a growing wave of internal disagreements within the Biden administration over the Middle East crisis.

At least three internal cables, sent through a dissent channel established during the Vietnam War, urged President Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, according to an official who spoke anonymously to discuss diplomatic cables sensitive information that has not been disclosed. the public.

Two were sent during the first week of the war and the third more recently, the official said. Another official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the three cables.

Israeli forces have been carrying out attacks in Gaza for more than a month following the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7. The death toll in Gaza stands at more than 11,000, according to the Health Ministry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted there could be no ceasefire, saying such a ceasefire would only benefit Hamas, and the Biden administration supported this. position. Instead, Mr. Biden pressured Israel, with mixed success, to adopt “humanitarian pauses.”

The most recent memo, first reported by Axiosproposed that Israel exchange the Palestinian prisoners it was holding, some of whom have not been charged, for the more than 200 hostages kidnapped by Hamas in Israel on October 7.

At least one of the memos also calls on the administration to propose a serious plan for a long-term peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would create a Palestinian state – and not just pay lip service to the idea, as Mr. Biden’s critics say. and Mr. Blinken did.

Mr. Blinken met in person with the signatories to at least one of the cables sent during the first week, one of the officials said. One of Mr. Blinken’s top aides met with signatories to another cable sent that week, the official said.

Mr. Blinken conducted at least one other listening session with staffers in the Office of Near Eastern Affairs, some of whom say U.S. policy has been too tolerant of civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli military in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Mr. Blinken responded to the internal dissent in an emailed message to department employees on Monday and obtained by The New York Times. “I know that for many of you, the suffering caused by this crisis is having a profound personal impact,” he wrote, adding that he was aware that “some people within the ministry may disagree with the approaches we take or have opinions about what we do.” we can do better.

In the message, Mr. Blinken said the State Department had “held forums in Washington to hear your feedback, and urged officials and teams to have frank discussions at posts around the world, precisely so that We can hear your comments and ideas.”

He added: “We listen to you: what you share informs our policy and our messages. »

U.S. officials say that while divergent opinions and new perspectives are welcome, employees at the State Department and other areas of government must accept and implement policy set at higher levels.

The cables come as dissent within the Biden administration becomes increasingly visible to the public. Earlier this month, more than a thousand employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development signed a letter, previously reported by the Washington Post and Foreign Policyinsisting on a ceasefire.

The State Department’s Dissent Channel was created in 1971 to allow department officials to express criticism and disagreement about the Vietnam War. Under State Department rules, dissidents are protected from retaliation.

In recent years, State Department employees have used the channel to warn against President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, urge the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against Syrian forces, and denounce the temporary ban on President Trump to allow citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries to enter the United States. States.

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