Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with a group of State Department officials who are involved in formal dissents over President Joe Biden’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war, according to one current and one former State Department official.
The previously unreported meeting took place on Oct. 26, said the former official, who left the State Department several years ago. It came amid huge internal frustration at State over the sense that Biden has disregarded officials’ national security expertise and circumvented normal consultation processes in his focus on demonstrating support to Israel.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting beyond saying “the Secretary meets with colleagues regularly including those who may have dissenting views.”
Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has previously said Blinken welcomes dissent and a diversity of opinions at the agency. But officials have told HuffPost that when they describe concerns based on their expertise, managers have told them those views are extremely unlikely to shift U.S. policy — and in one instance told officials they should focus on trying to make an impact in parts of the world other than Israel-Palestine.
This week, the department launched a new series of small group sessions between leaders and rank-and-file officials, according to an internal message seen by HuffPost. The announcement described leaders sharing their views and did not specify what impact expressing different views might have, if any.
Blinken has previously met with officials unhappy over U.S. policies, such as personnel who challenged America’s support for a brutal Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the former official said, noting that meeting occurred when the secretary was the department’s No. 2 official under President Barack Obama. Obama largely continued the policy throughout his time in office.
The Biden administration has shown some signs of public concern with Israel’s conduct in its Gaza offensive, which the Israelis launched after the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group Hamas’ vicious attack inside Israel on Oct. 7. Biden and Blinken this week endorsed the idea of a “humanitarian pause” to allow more aid to flow into the besieged region.
Yet the U.S. has not said it might reduce its support based on Israel’s response to humanitarian concerns or indications that the country may be violating international law by using disproportionate force — and some observers worry a pause will only permit a longer period of fighting.
On Friday, Blinken told Israeli counterparts he believes a pause will help the U.S. continue to defend and back Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, where millions of people will likely remain trapped regardless of a pause, Axios revealed.
“We don’t want to stop you, but help us help you get more time,” Blinken privately told the Israelis, one U.S. and two Israeli officials told the outlet.