State Department workers sign memos urging Biden to call for cease-fire in Gaza

Dozens of State Department officials 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 rising tide of internal dissent within the Biden administration over the Middle East crisis.

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

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

Israeli forces have been on the offensive in Gaza more than a month after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. According to the Ministry of Health there, the number of dead in Gaza is over 11,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted there can be no ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas, a position the Biden administration has backed. Instead, Mr. Biden has pressed Israel, with mixed success, to adopt “humanitarian pauses.”

The latest memorandum, first reported by Axioshe proposed that Israel sell the Palestinian prisoners it is holding, some of whom have not been charged, for the more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas from 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 deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would create a Palestinian state — not just pay lip service to the idea, as critics say Mr. Biden and Mr. Blinken did.

Mr. Blinken met personally with the signatories of at least one cable sent in the first week, one of the officials said. One of Mr. Blinken’s senior aides met with the signatories of the second cable sent that week, the official said.

Mr. Blinken held at least one more listening session with staff at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, some of whom believe that American policy has been too tolerant of civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli military in densely populated Gaza.

Mr. Blinken responded to the internal disagreement in an email to department employees Monday and obtained by The New York Times. “I know that for many of you the suffering caused by this crisis is taking a deep 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 views about what we can do better.”

In the message, Mr. Blinken said the State Department “organized forums in Washington to hear from you, and invited managers and teams to have frank discussions at posts around the world precisely so we can hear your feedback and ideas.”

He added: “We’re listening: what you’re sharing is informing our politics and our messaging.”

U.S. officials say that while differing opinions and fresh perspectives are welcome, employees at the State Department and elsewhere in government must accept and implement policy set at higher levels.

The cable comes as dissent across the Biden administration widens in the public eye. Earlier this month, more than a thousand employees of the US Agency for International Development signed a letter, first reported by The Washington Postinsisting on a ceasefire.

The State Department Dissent Channel was created in 1971 to allow department officials to express criticism and disagreement regarding the Vietnam War. Under State Department rules, dissidents are protected from retaliation.

In recent years, State Department staffers have used the channel to warn against President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, to call on the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against Syrian forces and to condemn President Trump’s temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States. of the state.

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