Blinken warns incoming Netanyahu govt against settlements, annexation

AFP , Sunday 4 Dec 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Sunday to oppose Israeli settlements or annexation in the West Bank, but promised to judge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's incoming government by actions and not personalities.

Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken pauses as he speaks at the J Street National Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. AP


Netanyahu is expected to return to power after sealing a coalition deal with the extreme-right movements including Religious Zionism, which will be given a post in charge of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Speaking to J Street, a progressive pro-Israel US advocacy group, Blinken offered congratulations to the veteran Israeli leader, who has clashed with previous Democratic administrations in Washington.

"We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities," Blinken said.

But he said President Joe Biden's administration would work "relentlessly" to preserve a "horizon of hope," however dim, for the creation of a Palestinian state.

"We will also continue to unequivocally oppose any acts that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution including but not limited to settlement expansion, moves toward annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo of holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement to violence," Blinken said.

Blinken said that the Biden administration will insist on "core democratic principles including respect to the rights of LGBTQ people and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel."

The far-right groups in Netanyahu's coalition will include Noam, whose leader Avi Maoz is staunchly opposed to LGBTQ rights.

Netanyahu quickly said that Jerusalem's Pride march will continue, contradicting Maoz who has vowed to cancel it.

Religious Zionism's leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is expected to have a key role, is a staunch advocate of Jewish settlements and used to hang in his living room a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers at a Hebron mosque in 1994.

The November 1 election was Israel's fifth in less than four years and came after the collapse of a motley coalition that tried to keep out the scandal-plagued Netanyahu.

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