Exclusive: 12 Biden Administration Resignees Blast 'Intransigent' Gaza Policy

President Joe Biden’s policy on Gaza is “a failure and a threat to U.S. national security” that “dehumanizes both Palestinians and Jews” and should be immediately overhauled, 12 former U.S. government officials who quit their posts over Biden’s controversial approach argued in their first joint public statement, which they exclusively shared with HuffPost.

The statement outlines steps that the former officials — four from the State Department, three from the military, one from the U.S. Agency for International Development and four from Biden’s political staff — recommend for a change in course. It suggests they will keep challenging the administration on public platforms, increasing pressure on Biden’s team to demonstrate progress in winding down the U.S.-backed Israeli offensive and addressing the humanitarian crisis it has created.

And it underscores how dissatisfaction with the administration’s Gaza policy, already widespread within the government, may continue to grow. The statement urges officials who remain in government to challenge their leaders “to not be complicit,” and its signatories include a previously unknown resignee: Anna Del Castillo, the first known White House official to leave the administration over Gaza. Del Castillo was a deputy director at the Office of Administration before her departure in April.

“Each of us has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and as our nation celebrates its Independence Day, each of us are reminded that we resigned from government not to terminate that oath but to continue to abide by it; not to end our commitment to service, but to extend it,” the statement reads. “This failed policy has not achieved its stated objectives — it has not made Israelis any safer, it has emboldened extremists while it has been devastating for the Palestinian people, ensuring a vicious cycle of poverty and hopelessness, with all the implications of that cycle, for generations to come. As a group of dedicated Americans in service of our country, we insist that there is another way.”

Spokespeople for the White House National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment.

Outside pressure is the only thing that’s going to move the ball on this.Harrison Mann, former Army major who quit over Gaza policy

In interviews before the statement’s release, its signatories cast themselves as a multiethnic, multifaith “microcosm of the U.S. government,” in the words of Josh Paul, the first official to resign in a development HuffPost revealed in October.

The signatories described how, over the months of the war — which began after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a shock attack within Israel last October — they lost hope that Biden would recalibrate his strategy, leading them to view his administration as “intransigent,” a word the statement uses repeatedly.

Harrison Mann, a Jewish 13-year U.S. Army veteran who left the military last month, spoke of multiple moments when he believed clear danger and excesses might spur Washington to reconsider full-tilt support for Israel.

From his then-perch at the Middle East bureau of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Mann was struck early in the campaign by the U.S. government’s failure to “really investigate anything that looked like the Israelis killing lots of civilians.” (The U.S. and Israel say the Israeli military takes measures to shield civilians, though Biden has personally said Israel has deployed “indiscriminate bombing,” which violates the laws of war.)

In January, Mann thought the “extremely predictable” killing of three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan — which Biden blamed on militias linked to Iran and sympathetic to Hamas — might force reflection. Several weeks later, the Israeli military’s killing of aid workers with the World Central Kitchen nonprofit could have forced a change in U.S. policy, given the pattern of Israeli attacks on medical personnel, Mann said, as could the Israeli invasion of the town of Rafah, which Biden had warned against.

“There have been a lot of moments where I felt, against reason, quite hopeful that we could see a change, and I think what we all understood – some of them faster than me – is that outside pressure is the only thing that’s going to move the ball on this,” Mann said.

Tariq Habash, a Palestinian American whom Biden appointed to the Department of Education and who quit in January, said he never envisioned “bucking the Democratic Party,” given his belief that, in current U.S. politics, it was the political faction “that recognizes humanity and racial equity” — but he felt he had no choice as Biden enabled Palestinian suffering abroad and attacks against Palestinians within the U.S.

The former officials described to HuffPost what they saw as the alarming implications of Biden’s Gaza policy and their view that his team’s refusal to alter it has disrupted the normal process of important deliberations over U.S. policy.

The threat of this becoming a wider war is not getting enough attention,” said Annelle Sheline, a former State Department official who resigned in March, speaking specifically of fears within the government and among outside national security experts that Israel will decide it can count on U.S. support to launch a war in Lebanon against the Hamas-linked militia Hezbollah. Such a fight could quickly entangle the two sides’ powerful allies, the U.S. and Iran, with far-reaching consequences.

The threat of this becoming a wider war is not getting enough attention.Annelle Sheline, former State Department official

Hala Rharrit, a professional diplomat who quit the State Department in April, said she had “never witnessed this level of silencing and self-censorship on any policy” among government officials.

“Our nation’s political and economic interests across the region have also been significantly harmed, while U.S. credibility has been deeply undermined worldwide at a time we need it most, when the world is characterized by a new era of strategic competition,” the statement reads, echoing language Biden’s team uses when describing its stated goals, like strengthening U.S. influence relative to China, Russia and other nations.

“Who does not now laugh when Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken describes the ‘rules-based international order’ while simultaneously undermining it in favor of Israel?” the statement continues, while also arguing that Biden’s government failed domestically in shielding the free speech rights of students opposed to the Gaza war.

The resignees want the Biden administration to refocus on the overall question of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They envision steps like applying U.S. laws that bar military aid for foreign forces responsible for human rights abuses — which the U.S., Israel’s top military supplier, has never done in the case of Israeli forces — and doing more to show that the U.S. supports Palestinian self-determination and opposes Israeli settlements in regions that would be a key to a future Palestinian state, specifically the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Simultaneously, the signatories seek greater safeguards to prevent future U.S. presidents from allowing what they see as damaging impunity for a foreign partner and making the U.S. complicit in possible war crimes, such as “killings and forced starvation” in Gaza.

“There is an urgent need for change in the organizational cultures and structures that have enabled the current U.S. approach,” their statement reads. “This includes the strengthening of oversight and accountability mechanisms within the Executive Branch, greater transparency regarding arms transfers and legal deliberations, an end to the silencing and sidelining of critical voices, and statutory change via the legislative process.”

Pegged to July 4 and released as Democrats question Biden’s capacity to lead, the statement is nonpartisan but presents a dark picture of his presidency and an impetus for radical change.

“Both our individual and common experiences demonstrate an Administration that has prioritized politics over just and fair policymaking; profit over national security; falsehoods over facts; directives over debate; ideology over experience, and special interest over the equal enforcement of the law,” the resignees wrote. “May we all have the moral courage to speak and push for a better world, for a better America.”

CORRECTION: A prior version of this article misstated the office where Anna Del Castillo was deputy director.