Wed. Jul 24th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Andrea Mitchell of NBC

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you’ve spent so much time with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  And you say that you want a hostage deal.  You’ve told the families that that’s at the heart of everything you’re doing.  But if Netanyahu and Israel go into Rafah, there’s no chance for a hostage deal or a ceasefire.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look.  We’re focused on the hostages, and I believe the Israeli Government is as well.  And that’s, I think, evident from the fact that the proposal, the most recent proposal they put on the table shows that they are willing to make big compromises in order to get a deal.  That’s what speaks most clearly and most loudly.  And as we discussed it today, it’s clear they’d like to see that happen.  It gets an immediate ceasefire, it gets hostages home, and it gives us something to build on.  And we agreed today in our conversations that if this happens, we’ll work to build on it.

QUESTION:  But there are lots of reports from officials that they are getting a lot closer to going into Rafah.  If they do that, there won’t be a hostage deal; there’s not a ceasefire, by definition; and what will the U.S. do?  Will there be repercussions if they go into Rafah, despite what is basically a red line?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Andrea, first, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what might happen.  We’re focused on seeing if this deal can happen, as it should happen.  And we’ll see what Hamas does.  It’s on them.

In terms of Rafah, we’ve been very clear, our position’s been clear – it hasn’t changed; it won’t change.  And our position is that we cannot and will not support a major military operation in Rafah absent a clear, credible plan to protect civilians.  We’ve not seen such a plan.  And there are also better ways to do what Israel needs to do in terms of dealing with the remaining Hamas problem.  We’ve been talking about that with them; we agreed that those conversations would continue.  So let’s let that play out.

QUESTION:  The prime minister has said that they will go into Rafah with or without a deal.  Doesn’t that make a deal impossible?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  People say things; let’s focus on what they’re doing, what we’re doing.  And the most immediate thing, the most urgent thing is seeing in the days ahead what Hamas’s response is to a very strong proposal that’s on the table.  Everyone agrees that this is a good deal, and one that would result in, again, an immediate ceasefire, which everyone wants, and getting the hostages home, which everyone should want.  That’s where the focus is.

QUESTION:  The prime minister also told you that they will not agree to a permanent ceasefire.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What we’ve agreed is if there is an agreement, if we get the initial ceasefire, if we get the hostages home, we’ll work to build on that.  So —

QUESTION:  And finally, you saw the aid being loaded on trucks in Jordan.  Jordan is complaining that trucks with aid from that warehouse that you were just at were attacked by settlers as they were crossing to the Erez crossing.  Is that acceptable?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So yes, and that is unacceptable.  We made that clear to the government.  It’s also —

QUESTION:  Will there be repercussions?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, it’s also important to note that there already have been.  My understanding is that the people who attacked this convoy were arrested today by the Israeli authorities.  That sends a very strong message.  Now, they need to continue to send a strong message that this aid cannot be, must not be interfered with as it goes through Israel.  And look, Israel is better than this.  Look, feelings are so incredibly raw – you know this from being here.  October 7th, and what is beyond imagination that’s happened.  The hostages who remain in the most dire situation.

But as President Biden has made clear – again, from day one – that doesn’t mean that aid shouldn’t get to people who desperately need it.  These are two separate things.  The people who so desperately need this aid, and who are now getting more of it because of the important steps that have been taken in recent weeks, including right here at Ashdod Port, had nothing to do with October 7th, nothing to do with the hostages.  They’re – they’ve been caught in this crossfire of Hamas’s making.  And it’s imperative that they get the food that they need, the water they need, the medical supplies they need, access to hospitals, to health care – all of that.

That’s what we’re focused on.  President Biden has been relentless about this, and will continue to be as long as it’s necessary.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION:  Safe travels.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  To you as well.

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS