update deskIsrael at War

Blinken meets Netanyahu as war against Hamas ramps up

"We are here, we are not going anywhere," Blinken told the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for America’s “incredible” support for Israel “in our war against the barbarians of Hamas,” speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

The presser followed a private meeting between the two men at IDF headquarters. “We are here, we are not going anywhere,” Blinken told Netanyahu as the meeting got underway.

“Mr. Secretary, your visit is another tangible example of America’s unequivocal support for Israel,” Netanyahu said, listing only a few of the brutal acts committed by the terror group Hamas during its Saturday invasion, including the massacre of young revelers at an outdoor music festival.

“Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilization,” the prime minister said. “President [Joe] Biden was absolutely correct in calling this sheer evil. Hamas is ISIS. And just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed.

“Hamas should be treated exactly the way ISIS was treated. They should be spat out from the community of nations. No leaders should meet them. No country should harbor them. And those that do should be sanctioned,” he added.

The prime minister said he had no doubt that the “forces of civilization” would win because “we understand what is the first prerequisite of victory. It’s what you just said in our meeting: moral clarity.

“This is a time, a particular time, a special time, that we must stand tall, proud and united against evil. Tony, you are taking that stand. America is taking that stand,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking next, Blinken said he didn’t just stand before the prime minister and the Israeli people as the top U.S. diplomat but “as a Jew” whose grandfather fled pogroms and stepfather survived concentration camps.

“I understand on a personal level the harrowing echoes the Hamas massacres carry for Israeli Jews, for Jews everywhere,” he said.

“The people of Israel have long and rightly prided themselves on their self-reliance, on their ability to defend themselves. Even when the odds are stacked against them,” Blinken said.

“The message that I bring Israel is this: You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists, you will never ever have to. We will always be there by your side.”

The U.S. is supplying ammunition, interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system and other defense materiel. “Shipments of U.S. military support have already arrived in Israel and more is on the way,” Blinken said.

“I can tell you there is overwhelming, overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security,” he added.

“Too often in the past, leaders have equivocated in the face of terrorist attacks against Israel and its people,” the secretary of state said. “There is no excuse. There is no justification for these attacks.”

“The failure to unambiguously condemn terrorism puts at risk not only people in Israel but people everywhere,” he noted. “Hamas has only one agenda: to destroy Israel and to murder Jews.”

Blinken added that Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinian people. He said that what distinguishes democracies from Hamas is “our humanity” and the value “we place on human life. … That’s why it’s so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”

He concluded by saying that the U.S. remains “committed to the vision of a more peaceful, more integrated, and more secure and more prosperous Middle East.”

Blinken later met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who expressed “deep gratitude” for the “moral clarity” shown by the U.S. president.

“Your visit here is another proof and testimony to how close you are and how you care for us in our time of need, in one of the darkest hours we’ve endured since the establishment of the State of Israel,” Herzog said.

Blinken responded, “It’s almost impossible for any of us to comprehend on a human level what Israel has experienced at the hands of Hamas these last few days. But we are determined to be with you as you defend your people and defend the values that join us together.

“What we have seen I think will be very hard to erase from our minds, and certainly our hearts. But I sense a fierce sense of determination in Israel to prevail and prevail Israel will, and the United States is here as your partner to help ensure that you do,” he said.

Blinken met with other officials. He will also meet Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan on Friday.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday before boarding his plane, Blinken said he was heading to Israel to deliver a clear message on behalf of the United States.

“We have the back of the Israeli people. We have their back today, we’ll have it tomorrow. We will have it every day,” he said.

“The secretary will reiterate his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attacks against Israel and condemn those attacks in the strongest terms,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Tuesday.

Blinken will “reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with the government and people of Israel. He will also discuss measures to bolster Israel’s security and underscore the United States’ unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” added Miller.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke again with Netanyahu on Wednesday. The president and prime minister have spoken four times since the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.

Netanyahu thanked Biden “for his powerful words of support following their previous conversation yesterday, and for his unequivocal support for the State of Israel,” according to Israel’s Government Press Office.

Biden and Harris discussed “ongoing U.S. support for Israel as Israel defends itself and protects its people,” according to the White House. “The leaders agreed to stay in regular contact in the face of an unprecedented and appalling assault by Hamas terrorists.”

“This has brought to the surface scars of antisemitism and genocide,” Biden said after the call. “There’s no excuse for terrorism. We are committed to the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people.”

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