Memo Shows US Diplomats Splitting With Biden on Israel

State Department staff members call for making criticism of military strategy public
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2023 7:20 PM CST
Memo Shows US Diplomats Splitting With Biden on Israel
President Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) President Joe Biden meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP...   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A dissent memo circulated by State Department staff members includes blunt criticism of President Biden's diplomatic efforts involving the Israel-Hamas war and proposes the administration make changes. Although it's not clear how many people signed the memo, or what it says in its final form, indications are that it reflects the views of many midlevel and lower American diplomats, reports Politico, which has seen the document. Dissent in the State Department, should it build, could hobble the Biden administration's Middle East policymaking.

The memo calls for the administration to support a ceasefire, which Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have opposed in order to let Israel try to destroy Hamas. The signees also want changes in US messaging about Israel, saying the administration should make its criticism of Israel's military strategy and treatment of Palestinians public—opinions that usually remain private. The text calls the number of Palestinians killed since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 unacceptable, though it recognizes Israel's "legitimate right and obligation" to pursue justice. Hamas and Israel alike should be held accountable, the memo says.

The State Department has a dissent channel to provide a forum for staff members to express disagreement with policies without facing punishment, per Politico. Opposition to the US approach has been growing in the ranks, per Foreign Policy. Blinken has been holding listening sessions about the policy with staff members. When he returned from a trip to the Middle East, the secretary updated the staff while acknowledging the disagreements. "Let us also be sure to sustain and expand the space for debate and dissent that makes our policies and our institution better," he wrote. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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