Israel-Gaza policy causes growing tension in US State Department

There have been resignations from the State Department over Washington's Israel policy since October 7

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrestling with growing internal discontent in his department over Washington's unwavering support for Israel. Bloomberg
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is said to be “angry” over leaks from within his department on Washington's Israel-Gaza policy, according to a report from Politico.

It said Mr Blinken ordered his team during a recent meeting with senior staff to “crack down” on leaks coming from the department.

“While we won’t comment on internal meetings, the secretary has been clear that leaks about sensitive diplomatic discussions don’t advance the interests of the United States, and can make it difficult to engage in the sort of broad internal consultations that enrich the policymaking process,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Discord over the US handling of the Israel-Gaza war and Washington’s refusal to pressure Israel into a ceasefire appear to have been growing inside the diplomatic centre in Foggy Bottom.

There has been a string of resignations over Washington's Israel policy since October 7, including Josh Paul, an official involved in handling arms transfers, and Annelle Sheline, a foreign affairs officer at the Office of Near Eastern Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

Hala Rharrit, who was the State Department's Arabic spokeswoman, also resigned last month.

Staffers have also sent numerous internal dissent messages.

The dissent channel is intended as a means for staff members to voice their concerns internally over policy issues.

“I've never seen a situation where there is as much internal opposition to a policy formulated by the White House carried out by the State Department,” Aaron David Miller, a long-time Middle East analyst at the State Department who retired in 2003, told The National.

“There is nothing that comes close.”

More than 35,500 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza, according to officials in the enclave.

That followed the Hamas-led October 7 assault on southern Israel, in which the militant group killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 240, according to Israeli officials.

The US has been resolute in its support of Israel, although tension between the two countries has grown as the campaign has dragged on and the death toll continues to climb.

President Joe Biden paused a shipment of weapons this month and threatened more action if Israel carried out an expected military operation in Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians have sought refuge.

Israel has begun its incursion into the city, but the US has so far refrained from further holds on weapons shipments.

The State Department sent a report to Congress this month in which it said it was “reasonable” to believe Israel has broken international law in Gaza, but that the “provision of defence articles” can continue.

Domestically, the war has galvanised students across the US to protest against American policy and their institutions' connections to Israel.

That same discontent appears to be rippling through some echelons of the US government.

“People are distraught and angry,” said Mr Miller, the analyst.

“The Israel-Hamas war has reached a new standard or new level of unhappiness throughout the US government and clearly a primary location of that unhappiness, understandably, is the Department of State.”

Updated: May 20, 2024, 9:43 PM