Senator Collins Questions Secretary of State Blinken on Administration’s Position on an Israel Ceasefire
Washington, D.C. – At an Appropriations Committee hearing today on the President’s national security funding request, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, asked Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to clarify the Administration’s position on an Israel ceasefire.
Senator Collins said:
Israel has every right to defend its citizens from Hamas, including seeking out the terrorists in Gaza and destroying them, while also trying to minimize civilian casualties.
There is a critical distinction here: Hamas targeted civilians, they kidnapped innocent children, as well as people as old as 85 years old. Israel is not doing that.
As Israel has begun to respond in Gaza to Hamas' indiscriminate and barbaric targeting of innocent Israeli citizens, some — and we've heard it today — have called for a ceasefire. A ceasefire would be a strategic victory for Hamas. It would simply allow Hamas to bide its time and prepare for future attacks, and pay no price for the greatest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust.
Could you clarify the Administration's position on a ceasefire?
Secretary Blinken replied:
First of all, Senator, I fully agree with you, that no country could tolerate what Israel suffered on October 7… And as we know, it wasn't just the attack itself, and the vulnerability that it revealed, it was the nature of the attack; with young people chased down and gunned down at a at a dance party; with, as you said, children executed in front of their parents; parents executed in front of their children; families, in a final embrace, burned alive; people beheaded. I could go on. You've seen the pictures. You've seen the video.
I've heard from many eyewitnesses to these atrocities, including… a family of four, a young boy and girl, six and eight years old, and their parents, around the breakfast table. The father, his eye gouged out in front of his kids. The mother's breast cut off. The girl's foot, amputated. The boy's fingers cut off, before they were executed. And then their executioners sat down and had a meal. That's what this society is dealing with, and no nation could tolerate that.
And as we've said repeatedly, as President Biden has repeatedly made clear, Israel has not only the right, but the obligation to defend itself, and to try to take every possible step to make sure this doesn't happen again. We've been equally clear, that it is vitally important how Israel does this. And the imperative of doing everything possible to protect civilians, as well as to care for those who are endangered by the conflict, is something that we feel strongly.
You're of course right, that this is a special burden on Israel, because Hamas, cynically and monstrously, puts, intentionally, civilians in harm's way, by hiding behind them, by using them as human shields, by placing its people, by placing its equipment, by placing its ammunition, its weapons, its command posts, underneath hospitals, underneath schools, in residential complexes…
When it comes to a ceasefire, in this moment, you're exactly right. That would simply consolidate what Hamas has been able to do, and allow it to remain where it is and potentially repeat what it did another day…
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