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Blinken warns of governance vacuum in Gaza in ‘day-after’ scenario

The secretary of state’s comments come as Israel faces pressure to put forward a plan for future governance of the enclave

Secretary of State Tony Blinken/X

Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks at the Brookings Institution, July 1st, 2024

Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Monday called for “clear, coherent, achievable plans for Gaza’s governance” once the Israel-Hamas war ends, warning that the conflict “cannot and must not end with a vacuum in Gaza.”

Blinken’s comments, made during an event at the Brookings Institution, come amid increasing international pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put forward a “day-after” plan for governance in the enclave. The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu has privately walked back some of his hesitancy to the possibility of Palestinian Authority-linked officials being involved in postwar governance in Gaza. The prime minister has continued to publicly reject PA involvement in “day-after” plans for the Strip.

“Vacuums tend to get filled by bad things before they get filled with good things,” said Blinken, speaking in conversation with Brookings’ Suzanne Maloney. “And we know that there are three things that are unacceptable for Gaza’s future: an Israeli occupation; Hamas perpetuating its leadership; or chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, which is what we’re seeing in big parts of Gaza today. Absent concrete plans to have an alternative to that – one of those three things is going to happen. And given all of the extraordinary suffering that we’ve seen to date, that should be unacceptable, and it’s unacceptable to us.”

Blinken also criticized Oct. 7 mastermind and senior Hamas official Yahya Sinwar for rejecting cease-fire proposals that Israel has agreed to.

Sinwar, Blinken said, “has the decision-making power to say yes or no. And right now, in not saying yes, Mr. Sinwar is not only holding on to the Israeli, American and other hostages; he’s continuing to make a hostage of Palestinian children, women and men who are caught in a horrific cross fire of Hamas’ making.”

Blinken described the recent cease-fire proposal, announced by President Joe Biden last month and agreed to by Israel, as “achievable [and] doable, which doesn’t mean it will be achieved, doesn’t mean it’ll be done, but it can be, and it should be. What we saw after he put out the proposal is quite remarkable. We’ve seen virtually the entire world come together in support of that proposal. Country after country standing up saying, ‘Yes, we support this. This is the way forward. This is the way to end the conflict in Gaza. This is the way to get the hostages home. This is the way to put us on a path to more durable security, more durable peace, a better future for Palestinians, for Israelis, and actually, for the entire region.’”

“And so everyone came together in support,” Blinken continued, “with one exception, and that was Hamas, which came back with most charitably a yes, but, trying to impose new conditions, moving the line, actually coming back on positions that it had already agreed to, and trying to try to get more.”

Blinken also suggested that a cease-fire in Gaza could calm tensions between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, calling Israel’s northern border region an area “of intense focus.” He described a “paradox” in which “none of the main actors actually want a war. Israel doesn’t want a war, although they may well be prepared to engage in one if necessary from their perspective to protect their interests, but they don’t want one. I don’t believe Hezbollah actually wants a war. Lebanon certainly doesn’t want a war because it would be the leading victim in such a war. And I don’t believe that Iran wants a war, in part because it wants to make sure that Hezbollah’s not destroyed and that it can hold onto Hezbollah as a card if it needs it, if it ever gets into a direct conflict with Israel.”

The secretary of state called for an immediate cessation of cross-border fire, as well as “an agreement reached through diplomacy to try to deal with some of the elements that are causing this ongoing insecurity, including making sure that forces, for example, are pulled back so that they can’t endanger people every single day and that people have the confidence to proceed.”

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