Facing State Dept dissent over Gaza, Blinken tells staff: We’re listening By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media after participating in the so-called “2+2 dialogue” in New Delhi, India November 10, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool/File Photo

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken moved on Monday to respond to growing criticism within the State Department over the Biden administration’s policy on the war between Israel and Hamas, as hundreds of U.S. government employees have openly and privately advocated for a ceasefire. Gaza.

At least three cables criticizing administration policies were filed with the department’s internal “dissent channel,” which was created during the Vietnam War and allows diplomats to anonymously voice concerns about policy to the Secretary of State, sources familiar with the matter said.

The criticism centers on President Joe Biden’s unwavering support for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants that killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, the deadliest attack in Hamas history. country.

In response, Israel launched a relentless military campaign against Gaza, killing more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, triggering the bloodiest chapter in years in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Washington rejected calls from Arab and Palestinian leaders and others to call on Israel to stop its attack on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, but it called for humanitarian pauses to allow more aid and to evacuate Americans and foreigners.

In an emailed letter to State Department employees, Blinken, who just returned from a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Asia, acknowledged the emotional toll the conflict has taken on his hand -work, but also possible divisions within the ranks on policy.

“I know that for many of you, the suffering caused by this crisis is having a profound personal impact,” Blinken said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

“The anguish that comes with seeing daily images of babies, children, elderly people, women and other civilians suffering from this crisis is heartbreaking. I feel it myself,” he said.

“I also know that some people within the department may disagree with the approaches we are taking or have opinions about what we can do better. We have held forums in Washington to hear your views and have urged the managers and teams to have candid discussions at posts. around the world specifically so that we can hear your comments and ideas. I have asked our senior leaders to continue to do so.

“We listen to you: what you share informs our policy and our messages.”

HuffPost was first to report the email.

Blinken’s letter comes amid protests in the United States and other countries calling for a ceasefire, and widespread concern among officials over the U.S. response to the Middle East crisis, which included the public resignation of a State Department official who said he opposed continued lethal aid. in Israel.

More than 500 people who worked on Biden’s 2020 election campaign released a letter last week, seen by Reuters, calling on the president to support an immediate ceasefire, and a group of members of Congress held a vigil Wednesday at the Capitol demanding a ceasefire, images on social media showed.

While some sources say there has been “deep frustration” among State Department operational staff, several U.S. officials say that even if the Department’s leadership welcomes a diverse set of voices, it is unlikely that this profoundly changes Biden’s policies.

At a press briefing earlier Monday, department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken met with a number of people from different offices within the agency to hear what they thought about the policy regarding the war between Israel and Hamas.

“It encourages people to give their opinions. It encourages people to speak up if they disagree. That doesn’t mean we’re going to change our policy based on their disagreements,” Miller said.

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