Speaking at a webinar with the Washington-based Wilson Center, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood stressed the need for more work to ensure a permanent ceasefire between Palestinian factions and Israel.
Last month witnessed the heaviest fighting between Hamas and Israel during an 11-day onslaught of aerial bombardment by Israeli forces and rocket attacks from Hamas.
Hood spoke about the need for continued and increased humanitarian assistance as well as a two-state solution.
The international community should look for ways “that we can actually start putting in place the conditions and the parameters to be able to start talking about a two-state solution again,” he said.
“Because right now, that prospect seems pretty far away. But when you look at this unconditional mutual ceasefire between Israel and the militants based in Gaza, we think it was a function of the intensive but quiet diplomacy in the United States and our partners since the earliest hours of the conflict,” the US official said.
Hood commended the roles of Jordan, Egypt and Qatar, who played a “critical role in all of this, but again, a quiet one.”
Apart from spurts of violence since the ceasefire, there has been relative calm for the better part of the last month.
But, Hood said, “there’s a lot of important work still ahead to avoid future flashpoints and help rebuild.”
Going forward, the US will begin to put a “great deal” of thought into the longer term because the situation remains “really fragile,” he admitted.
The few instances of violence that continue to occur result from Hamas militants launching so-called incendiary balloons before the Israelis respond with airstrikes. “Fortunately, no one on either side has been injured so far, but if this continues, it’s just a matter of time,” Hood said.
Hood also defended US aid to Palestinians, which pro-Israeli groups criticize as helping Hamas. “If you’ve ever seen the vetting procedures that we and our partners put in place, it’s like a 60-page memo that I have to sign off on every year. Let me tell you, folks, it is intensive.”
Nevertheless, unilateral actions from Israel, including the settlements and annexation of Palestinian territories, worsen the situation.
The US official criticized the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and Israeli settlements and annexation. “Because those types of actions exacerbate tensions and make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” he said.
But he also condemned the “incitement to violence and providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism,” in an apparent reference to Hamas.
“President Biden has been crystal clear in saying that he believes Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy,” Hood said.