“An empty taxi drew up to 10 Downing Street and Attlee got out,” Winston Churchill once said of his rival, Labor leader Clement Attlee. Two years ago, a convoy of limousines stopped near the Council on Foreign Relations building in Manhattan. A man burst out that none of the passersby recognized. It was the current U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. I was there.
Despite Churchill’s sarcasm, Attlee was one of Britain’s great prime ministers. Blinken, on the other hand, will be remembered as one of the secretaries of state under whose watch the United States’ standing in the world suffered a beating. Although he is ultimately an official serving at the pleasure of the president, and his policy is not independently formulated, Blinken’s first three years in office are a magnificent chain of failures.
China has increased its level of threat toward America, despite the internal economic crisis it is suffering. Russia invaded Ukraine, America’s ally, and shook the world order to its core. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people are still fighting, but these days Russian President Vladimir Putin has the upper hand. And Iran, America’s Middle Eastern enemy, is surging forward. Both the policy and the steps Blinken took on Iran turned out to be detached from reality and disastrous. This is his legacy.
At the beginning of his tenure, Blinken wanted to reach a new, “stronger and longer” nuclear agreement, in his words. That effort failed miserably. Despite countless concessions, the Iranians did not play along. It later emerged that the man he appointed to handle the Iran portfolio, Rob Malley—who was known for his sympathy for Tehran—was alleged to have engaged in misconduct. Malley was removed from his post in disgrace. Blinken’s State Department lied when it initially claimed that Malley had stopped coming to work “due to personal matters.”
That same Iran that Blinken has failed to stop stands of course behind the terrible attack on Israel on Oct. 7; this war was also a product of this weakness.
This disgraceful record did not lead to his dismissal. Biden is old and weak, and currently preoccupied with the 2024 race. The president still managed to stand by our side in the first days of the war. He set a directive according to which the United States supports Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, which still supposedly binds the administration.
However, since then, Blinken and the State Department have simply undermined the war in every possible way. Biden is dragged after them. On the one hand, American military aid is indeed impressive in scope. On the other hand, the demands that are being made by Blinken and his team have undermined Israel’s achievements in the war.
In meetings he held in Israel last week, the secretary of state argued that the administration itself is under pressure from members of Congress and the progressive wing of his party. His message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog has been: “Look what’s going on on the other side, too. There is real hunger there, and babies are dying. Understand the pressures on us, and help us help you.”
This was his justification for the moral preaching and chain of dictates to Israel which he announced to the microphones and cameras on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv. With Israelis too busy with their troubles, and with Blinken being so laconic in his speaking, his chutzpah may have slipped under the radar. But here are some excerpts:
“In today’s meetings, I was also crystal clear: Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow. They must not be pressed to leave Gaza. As I told the prime minister, the United States unequivocally rejects any proposals advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza, and the prime minister reaffirmed to me today that this is not the policy of Israel’s government…
“I spoke last night with the U.N.’s new Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag about all of these efforts that are underway…She has America’s full support. She must have Israel’s as well…
“Israel must be—must stop taking steps that undercut Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves effectively. Extremist settler violence carried out with impunity, settlement expansion, demolitions, and evictions all make it harder, not easier, for Israel to achieve lasting peace and security…
“If Israel wants its Arab neighbors to make the tough decisions necessary to help ensure its lasting security, Israeli leaders will have to make hard decisions themselves.”
By the way, he also announced that his heart went out to the Al-Jazeera journalist who had recently been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza. A few hours later, the IDF spokesman revealed that the “journalist” was directly affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Blinken did say a few words about the necessary reforms in the Palestinian Authority, and on Wednesday he even confronted P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas about it in Ramallah, at least according to Palestinian reports. He also noted that he was here to “ensure that Oct. 7 can never happen again” and that the United States stands by Israel and thinks that the accusation made against it of genocide is shocking. especially given that those attacking Israel—Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iran that supports them—continue to openly call for the destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.
And yet, the main pressure he exerted, just like in the cheerful days of Obama—in whose administration Blinken held senior positions—was on Israel. In the regional tour he held just before arriving in Israel, in countries that, of course, did not go through what we went through on Oct. 7, he did not dare to speak like that. Here—just three months after the biggest pogrom ever suffered by Jews outside of the Holocaust—he shifted the burden of demands and blame onto our shoulders. The truth is that this is beyond the pale.
The silence of the lambs
The Israeli resistance to these pressures has been weak. Except for the IDF spokesman, who posted a video with a strong message about Israel’s wide-scale humanitarian actions, senior Israelis bowed their heads. They could have said: “We’re fighting for our lives here, and if you are allies, you must support us morally and publicly as well.” They could have added: “We still have 130 captives inside Gaza, we’ll add an aid truck for every one that gets released,” or “the aid coming in is going to Hamas, prevents the war goals from being achieved and teaches the population that the organization is still the ruler in Gaza. By exerting these pressures you are preventing us from winning.”
They should have responded with, “How come you rely on data from the United Nations, a biased organization which has been taken over by Hamas?” They should have asked, “What did you bring from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Will they demilitarize Gaza? Will they make sure they stop firing missiles at us from there?”
Instead of standing tall, the Israeli leadership agreed, for some reason, that a team on behalf of the United Nations, yes, the United Nations, would determine what conditions must be met before Gaza residents returned to their homes in the northern strip. Willingness was also expressed to increase to 400(!) the number of aid trucks entering Gaza daily. Netanyahu also committed on his own that there would be no occupation and no population displacement—two steps we may end up needing.
Indeed, there were additional demands that Blinken raised and which were rejected outright. Netanyahu, through Herzog and Gantz, made it clear to him that both in Gaza and Lebanon Israel will stand by the decisions it has taken to remove the threats. There were certainly uncomfortable moments for Blinken at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. And yet, someone should have set a red line for him—which did not happen.
There were those in Jerusalem last week who recalled Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy, which pushed Israel into a corner after the Yom Kippur War. Also in this regard, the similarities between that difficult war and our times are very similar. Only Kissinger was a great statesman and a smart Jew. He broke the Communist bloc by splitting Russia and China and brought Egypt over to the Western bloc, and history books are full of his wit.
Jewish history, on the other hand, sees Kissinger as a controversial figure, because in the difficult moments of that war, he seemed to be gambling with our fate. And that, unfortunately, is the only point of resemblance between him and the current Jewish secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.