State Department Employees Send ‘Dissent’ Cables to Blinken on Gaza Policy. | ET REALITY

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Dozens of State Department employees have signed internal memos to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken expressing serious disagreement with the Biden administration’s approach to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, according to U.S. officials, part of a growing tide of internal disagreement within the Biden administration over the Middle East crisis.

At least three internal cables, sent through a dissent channel established during the Vietnam War, have urged President Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, according to one official, who spoke anonymously to discuss sensitive diplomatic cables that have not been disclosed. the public.

Two were sent in the first week of the war and the third was sent more recently, the official said. Another official, also speaking anonymously, confirmed all three cables.

Israeli forces have been attacking Gaza for more than a month following Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7. The death toll in Gaza exceeds 11,000, according to that country’s Ministry of Health.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that there can be no ceasefire, saying that would only benefit Hamas, and the Biden administration has supported that position. Instead, Biden has been pressuring Israel, with mixed success, to adopt “humanitarian pauses.”

The most recent of the memoranda, first reported by Axiosproposed that Israel exchange the Palestinian prisoners it was holding, some of whom have not been charged, for the more than 200 hostages kidnapped by Hamas in Israel on October 7.

At least one of the memos also calls on the administration to offer a serious plan for a long-term peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that would create a Palestinian state, and not simply pay lip service to the idea, as the critics of Biden. and Mr. Blinken have done so.

Blinken met in person with signatories to at least one of the cables sent in the first week, one of the officials said. One of Blinken’s top advisers met with the signatories of another cable sent that week, the official said.

Blinken has held at least one other listening session with employees of the Near Eastern Affairs office, some of whom believe US policy has been too tolerant of civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli military in densely populated Gaza. .

Blinken responded to the internal disagreement in an emailed message to department employees on Monday and obtained by The New York Times. “I know that for many of you, the suffering caused by this crisis is taking a profound personal toll,” he wrote, adding that he was aware that “some people in the department may not agree with the approaches we are taking or have opinions about what we do.” “We can do better.”

In the message, Blinken said the State Department had “hosted forums in Washington to hear your input and urged managers and teams to have candid discussions in positions around the world precisely so we can hear your comments and ideas.”

He added: “We’re listening: what you share informs our policy and our messaging.”

U.S. officials say that while different opinions and new perspectives are welcome, employees in the State Department and other parts of the government must accept and implement policies set at the highest levels.

The cables come at a time when dissent across the Biden administration is increasingly spreading into public view. Earlier this month, more than a thousand employees of the United States Agency for International Development signed a letter, previously reported by The Washington Post and Foreign Policyinsisting on a ceasefire.

The State Department’s dissent channel was created in 1971 to allow department officials to express criticism and disagreement about the Vietnam War. Under State Department rules, dissidents are protected from retaliation.

In recent years, State Department employees have used the channel to warn against President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, urge the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against Syrian forces, and denounce President Trump’s temporary ban on allowing entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. State.

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