Antony J. Blinken

Press Remarks on Latest Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Proposal

delivered 1 Mary 2024, Ashdod, Israel

 

Good evening, everyone. I met earlier today with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we talked about, of course, the hostage deal thatís on the table that would produce an immediate ceasefire, get the hostages home, alleviate suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and also give us something to build on for the future to get to durable peace and security. Israel has made very important compromises in the proposal thatís on the table, demonstrating its desire, willingness to get this agreement, to get it done. Now, as weíve been saying, itís on Hamas. Hamas has to decide whether it will take this deal and actually advance the situation for the people that it purports to care about in Gaza. There is no time for delay; there is no time for further haggling. The deal is there; they should take it.

We also spent some time talking about something thatís been a priority for President Biden from day one, since October 7th and since the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and that is trying to make sure that people whoíve been caught in this crossfire get the assistance they need, the humanitarian assistance they need. And this has been, as I said, a priority for the President from day one. Itís been a focus of every trip that Iíve taken to the region, and this is now, I think, my seventh since October 7th.

We have seen in recent weeks real, meaningful progress that is starting to make a difference for people in Gaza. Yesterday we were in Jordan. Some of you saw the trucks being loaded in Jordan. They went through
Erez for the first time today, and thatís very important because thatís direct access to the north of Gaza.  And this is the result of a very important collaboration involving Israel, involving Jordan, involving as well
the United Nations. We have our own maritime corridor that is probably a week away from being operational.

And here in Ashdod, the -- Israelís primary port, weíre now seeing a real flow of assistance that is going to the people in Gaza.

And itís a pretty good example of all the efforts that the President has been making on this. Back in February, he requested of Israel that they allow flour to come through Ashdod, and as a result we had U.S. flour going to Gaza, enough to feed a hundred -- 1.5 million Gazans for five months. Now weíre getting all other items coming here through Ashdod, and theyíll be going to Gaza.

So weíre seeing, as I said, real, demonstrable progress. I discussed that today as well with the minister of defense as well as the army chief of staff and all those working on the Israeli side to make sure that assistance is moving and flowing to Gaza. And we got a detailed briefing on that. We had the senior UN coordinator, Sigrid Kaag, with us, whoís playing an instrumental role, along with many UN agencies.

So the progress is real, but given the need, given the immense need in Gaza, it needs to be accelerated, it needs to be sustained. And as we focus on all of the necessary inputs, the number of trucks that are moving, what matters the most is the impact, and weíre focused on measuring that, making sure that people are actually getting what they need, that itís being delivered to them. One of the remaining challenges is making sure that when assistance gets through it can be effectively distributed within Gaza, and we have to make sure that itís not interfered with or impeded by Hamas.

So these are remaining challenges, and there are a number of others as well, particularly making sure that we have effective deconfliction and coordination with humanitarians. Thereís been, I think, a significant
improvement there as well, but it has to -- we have to make sure that thatís happening right down to the unit level so that everyone in the chain knows when a shipment is moving through, a convoy is moving through Gaza, and it can work its way through efficiently, effectively, and get to people who need it.

There a number of other things that we want to see continued progress on. I left a list of items with the prime minister and with other officials in the government.

Thereís one other aspect of this thatís critical, and I mentioned this yesterday: Besides the food, itís hugely important that everything people need for their basic well-being is provided and provided effectively. Safe water to drink, medicine when youíre sick, access to hospitals and health care facilities if you need urgent care -- all of these things are absolutely vital, and again, weíre seeing progress. The water pipelines that had been cut off or had been destroyed or had other challenges are being restored. Thatís good, but then once within Gaza, we have to make sure that the distribution works, and that requires some work inside of Gaza itself, including with the Palestinian Water Authority.

So this entire ecosystem of care, of support for the people in Gaza needs to be front and center in our minds, and itís very much front and center in President Bidenís mind. Again, this is what heís been focused on from
day one. Weíre seeing good, important results, but got to see more, faster, and as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Let me leave it at that and take a few questions.



MR. MILLER: Courtney.

QUESTION: Thanks. Good evening, Mr. Secretary. Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly has threatened to go into Rafah regardless of whether there is an agreement on hostage releases and a temporary ceasefire. Has the Israeli Government now, on this visit, perhaps provided a viable plan for Rafah? Youíve talked about needing a workable humanitarian plan if they are to proceed with an invasion, and -- or have they given you assurances that they would allow a deal to play out before proceeding with an invasion?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So what weíre focused on, as I said, is getting this agreement -- ceasefire, hostage release -- and then something to build on. And thatís what we talked about today in our meetings, and thatís the immediate focus. And there is an agreement that if weíre able to get the deal, get the ceasefire, get the hostages out, weíre -- weíll look for ways to build on that and have something thatís sustainable over time.

On Rafah itself, look, our position is clear. It hasnít changed; it wonít change. We cannot, will not support a major military operation in Rafah absent an effective plan to make sure that civilians are not harmed. And no, we have not seen such a plan. And at the same time, there are other ways -- and in our judgment, better ways -- of dealing with the real ongoing challenge of Hamas that does not involve or require a major military operation in Rafah. Weíve been talking with the Israelis about that; weíll continue those conversations.

MR. MILLER: Ed.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that youíre focused on trying to get these hostages out and trying to get Hamas to agree to this deal, and youíre saying the ball is in Hamasís court. At the same time, the prime
minister said on Tuesday that he would do a major assault on Rafah with or without a deal, and we hear from Israeli reports that he told you today that he wonít agree to any terms for a long-term ceasefire. Now, all of that seems to undermine any incentive for Hamas to take this agreement, since part of their calculus might be to try and reach a long-term ceasefire, so how do you address that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, Ed, Iím not going to speak for him. Iíll let him speak for himself. All I can tell you is that what we discussed today, among other things, was getting this agreement which involves an
immediate ceasefire, hostages home, and then working to build on it. And thatís what we talked about today. So letís see if we can get this done.

Look, I think this is something that the whole world is watching, and if Hamas actually purports to care about the Palestinian people and wants to see an immediate alleviation of their suffering, it will take the deal.
If it doesnít, I think thatís further proof that it doesnít care a bit about the Palestinian --

QUESTION: But doesnít the prime ministerís statements undermine incentives for Hamas to take the deal?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I think that, again, all I can tell you is what weíre focused on is getting the deal and understanding that thatís something that will give us an opportunity to build on. Hamas will have to make its own judgments, but the most immediate thing that can happen to actually improve the situation for Palestinians and also create a dynamic that moves this in a different direction is the ceasefire, the hostage deal. Letís see what they do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, everyone.


Original Text Source: State.gov

Page Updated: 5/3/24

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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