Blinken says Gaza aid could sideline Hamas

Visit to region is being widely interpreted as focused on restoring US relations with PA


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concludes his first press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on January 27, 2021. (Photo by CARLOS BARRIA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CARLOS BARRIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Gaza reconstruction process could sideline Hamas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today in Jerusalem.

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem he claimed that if carried out correctly, efforts to improve the situation in the coastal enclave post-conflict could also cause the “foothold” of Hamas in Gaza to strip.

His comments came on a day of several indications that he is on a mission to mend the US relationship with the more moderate Palestinian Authority and bolster it. 

He seemingly hopes that this will eat away at the appeal Hamas currently has for Palestinians, and make the PA feel it has a popular mandate to engage Israel in renewed peace negotiations. 

Reconstruction aid money will bypass Hamas, and make the terror group less relevant, he hopes. 

After a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas he said: “In total, we are in the process of providing more than $360 million of urgent support for the Palestinian people, and across these efforts, we will work with partners to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from these reconstruction efforts.” 

Some of the aid is expected to be channelled through international agencies and some through the PA.

The meeting between Mr Blinken and Mr Abbas got off to an embarrassing start, when Mr Abbas mistakenly called him Secretary Clinton, saying: “In the name of God, the merciful and the compassionate, we would like to welcome Secretary Clinton, who visits us these days.” 

Many of Mr Blinken’s comments pleased Ramallah. He indicated that the US opposes the eviction of Palestinian families — expected to be carried out the authority of Israeli courts rulings — from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. And he promised to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, in what appears to be a bid to soften the blow to Palestinians of the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

This will offer a way for Palestinian to receive consular services without needing to visit the embassy, which many regard as a symbol of an unfavourable US policy under the Trump administration.

He met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning, followed by his political opponents from the Blue and White party — Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. 

Mr Ashkenazi hailed his “very important meeting,” and said they discussed the possibility of “expanding the circle of peace.” 

He said that the meeting with Mr Blinken covered “the importance of our relations with the US,” and matters of peace.

According to the White House, at the meeting “the secretary emphasised the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.”

Mr Ashkenazi’s comment about the “circle of peace” is being interpreted by some as an effort on his part to signal that a government which includes his Blue and White party would partner with the White House on peace proposals.

Such a government may arise if current coalition-building attempts by the Yesh Atid party bear fruit and include Blue and White, or if new elections are held and Mr Ashkenazi’s party enters the coalition. 



Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive