(The Epoch Times)—The United States and its allies are already assessing the future of Gaza amid the Israel–Hamas conflict, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Mr. Blinken made the comments during an Oct. 31 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in response to questioning from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
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The Democratic lawmaker quizzed the secretary of state over the U.S. plan for Gaza—which is home to a population of more than 2 million people—noting that the “question of what the end state is ought to be wrestled with at least simultaneously and, in an ideal situation, precede the military strategy.”
“What are we even fighting towards if we don’t know what the political objective is?” the lawmaker said.
Responding to the questioning, Mr. Blinken said the Biden administration is “very much grappling” with the next phase of the conflict, adding that the subject is part of an “ongoing deliberation both within the government as well as with allies and partners in the region.”
“Everyone is focused on not only what’s happening right now in Gaza but exactly, as you say, where this goes, where this lands, and in a way that fundamentally and materially changes the security for Israel and changes the situation for Palestinians who have been living under, well before October 7th, a Hamas regime that is in so many ways destroying their lives,” he said, referencing the terrorist group’s attack on Israel last month.
‘Fundamental Change’ Needed for Gazans
“We need to see a fundamental change in the circumstance of Palestinians living in Gaza and we need to see a fundamental change, I think, in the circumstance for Palestinians that gets to a state of their own,” the secretary of state added.
Mr. Blinken’s comments came ahead of his visit to Israel on Friday, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government.
During the visit, Mr. Blinken will “reiterate U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism consistent with international humanitarian law and discuss efforts to safeguard U.S. citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza,” according to a statement from the State Department.
Mr. Blinken will also work to secure the immediate release of hostages and increase the rate of humanitarian assistance entering Gaza, according to the department.
While the Biden administration has backed its ally Israel following the attack by Hamas, the White House also vowed not to put U.S. troops on the ground in Gaza in any future peacekeeping role. The administration also does not support a permanent settlement of Gaza civilians outside of Gaza.
Meanwhile, Egyptian leaders, including Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, have opposed pushing the Palestinians in Gaza to the North Sinai province.
Hamas Cannot Run Gaza, US Warns
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan has also said his country has no interest in permanently reoccupying Gaza once Hamas is wiped out.
Speaking Tuesday, Mr. Blinken stressed that ultimately, Hamas cannot be in charge of Gaza after the conflict is over.
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“We cannot have a reversion to the status quo, with Hamas running Gaza,” he told lawmakers. “We also can’t have … Israel running or controlling Gaza. That’s not their intent, it’s not what they want to do, and it’s not something that would be supported,” Mr. Blinken said.
The United States and its allies are currently looking at other options that would “make the most sense,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that ultimately having a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority to govern the nation and provide security responsibility for Gaza would be the best option.
Hamas has governed Gaza since ousting the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
However, getting there in “one step” will likely prove to be a difficult task, he said, and “temporary arrangements” involving a number of other countries in the region as well as international agencies that provide both security and governance for Gaza may be another option.
“Ultimately, though, beyond that is what we come back to—what this administration believes—which is the imperative of getting to two states for two peoples,” Mr. Blinken said.
“That’s where you finally get the kind of sustained security that a Jewish and democratic state of Israel needs and must have, and you also get the state that the Palestinians are entitled to,” he added.