Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday evening that the humanitarian effort to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure and economy is dual-purpose: to help the civilian population, and to hurt Hamas.
At a press conference in Yerushalayim after returning from a visit with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Blinken said that “if we do this right… far from empowering Hamas, it has the potential to undermine it.
“Hamas thrives, unfortunately, on despair, on misery, on desperation, on a lack of opportunity,” he said.
The objective of American investment is to give the Palestinians, “including those in Gaza, a renewed sense of progress, of optimism, of real opportunity,” said Blinken.
If they succeed, he predicted, “Hamas’ foothold in Gaza will slip. We know that. And I think that Hamas knows that.”
Blinken sidestepped a reporter’s question about the potential court-ordered eviction of Palestinian families from the East Yerushalayim neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which has been used as a pretext for violence.
He said that both Israel and the Palestinians are being asked by the United States to remove “potential catalysts for a renewed cycle of violence” and that will enable a return to pursuit of a two-state solution.
“Any steps that either side takes that either risks sparking violence or over time, ultimately undermine the prospect of returning to the pursuit of two states, we oppose — and that includes settlement activity, it includes demolitions, it includes evictions, it includes incitement to violence, it includes payments to terrorists…”
On the lighter side of Middle East diplomacy, earlier in the day, during his visit to Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas referred to Blinken as “Secretary Clinton,” according to a transcript from the State Department, which went as follows:
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) We would like to welcome Secretary Clinton, who visits us these – in these days —
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) – Sorry – Blinken, who visits us in these days —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s an improvement. (Laughter.)