A significant number of State Department staff have reportedly conveyed their opposition to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken regarding the Biden administration’s handling of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, igniting a wave of internal discord within the administration over the ongoing Middle East crisis.
Sources report that at least three internal memos have been dispatched through the Department’s dissent channel – a mechanism established amidst the Vietnam War. These memos implore President Biden to advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza. The content of these confidential diplomatic cables remains undisclosed to the public.
The sources confirm that two memos were sent in the conflict’s initial phases, with a third dispatched subsequently. Israeli forces have been engaged in military operations in Gaza for over a month following the Hamas strikes on Israel on October 7. The Health Ministry in Gaza reports a death toll surpassing 11,000.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains resolute against a ceasefire, arguing it would primarily serve Hamas’ interests. The Biden administration has backed this stance, with President Biden encouraging Israel to implement “humanitarian pauses” instead, albeit with varying results.
One of the latest memos, initially brought to light by Axios, advocates for an exchange of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, some of whom are yet to face charges, for the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas from Israel on October 7.
The memos also call on the administration to put forth a substantial plan for a lasting peace deal between Israel and Palestine, leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state, rather than merely paying lip service to the idea, as critics argue Biden and Blinken have.
One source confirms that Blinken has personally met with the authors of at least one memo. He has also conducted listening sessions with employees of the Near East Affairs Bureau, some of whom believe the U.S. policy has been overly lenient towards the civilian casualties resulting from Israel’s military operations in densely-populated Gaza.
This internal dissent comes as similar sentiments within the Biden administration are becoming increasingly public. Earlier this month, over a thousand U.S. Agency for International Development employees signed a letter demanding a ceasefire.
The State Department’s dissent channel, established in 1971, offers officials a platform to voice their disagreements or criticisms without fear of retaliation. Recently, it has been utilized to express concerns over President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.