I’m not just Mr. Nice Guy, Blinken says

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted that he might not be such a nice guy, after all.

After POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi published a column on Tuesday questioning whether America’s top diplomat’s kind demeanor hinders his handling of Israel’s war with the Hamas militant group, Blinken was asked in a press briefing to defend his diplomatic approach.

In Qatar — one of Blinken’s stops on a weeklong trip in the Middle East — a reporter asked the secretary: “Before you travel to Israel and meet Netanyahu, I’m going to ask the same question that POLITICO asked today: Is Mr. Antony Blinken too nice to be secretary of State?”

In his polite style, Blinken shrugged off the characterization — but suggested that he knows how to be stern when needed.

“I’ll let others speak to my character, and all I can say is that most people who assume the position that I have the great privilege of assuming now don’t get there by being nice all the time,” he said.

Blinken’s trip to the region has also included a stop in Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Egypt, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And he will continue on to Israel and Qatar to discuss the hostage negotiations and push for the United States’ vision of a postwar Gaza.

It’s Blinken’s first trip to the region since Israel offered Hamas a deal to pause fighting in exchange for the release of hostages. On Tuesday, Blinken said that the U.S. is reviewing Hamas’ response to the hostage deal proposed by Israel that would see an exchange of prisoners for a pause in fighting.