Blinken to meet Palestinian president after meeting Israeli leaders in bid to restore calm

AFP , Tuesday 31 Jan 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to meet Palestinian leaders Tuesday for his final stop on a Middle East tour aimed at curbing the worst outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Jerusalem. AP


After a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Blinken urged both sides to take "urgent steps" to calm tensions and said Washington would work to "restore a sense of security" craved by "Israelis and Palestinians alike".

After landing in Israel on Monday, Blinken said, "We condemn all those who celebrate... acts of terrorism, that take innocent lives."

He also appeared to chastise Israelis blamed for dozens of incidents of reprisal violence following Friday's shooting in an east Jerusalem settler neighbourhood.

"Retaliatory acts of violence against civilians are never justified," he said.

Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 35 Palestinian adults and children.

'Dangerous developments'

Blinken is scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who last week announced that the Palestinian Authority was cutting security coordination with Israel after the deadly occupied West Bank raid.

Blinken is expected to urge the PA to continue working with Israel to stem militant attacks.

Blinken, whose long-planned visit has taken on a new urgency amid the spiralling violence, will also meet with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

The fatal east Jerusalem shooting was preceded by the Israeli occupation army's deadliest operation in the occupied West Bank in years, killing 10 people Thursday in  Jenin refugee camp.

Netanyahu's cabinet has moved to punish the families of the Palestinian attackers with home demolitions and other measures.

His government is also planning to rescind the rights to social security benefits of attackers' relatives, and steps to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.

'Death spiral'

Blinken had made an initial stop in Egypt, where he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, commending "Egypt's important role in promoting stability in the region."

The diplomats and intelligence services of Egypt are regularly called upon to intercede between Israelis and Palestinians.

Blinken's Israel visit is part of the Biden administration's efforts to engage quickly with Netanyahu, who had tense relations with the previous Democratic president Barack Obama.

He also reiterated US support for a Palestinian state, a prospect few expect to advance under the new Israeli government.

Netanyahu, a veteran leader, returned to power late last year at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

Short link: