Blinken: We’ll Engage New Israeli Government

By Zalman Ahnsaf

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the J Street National Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

YERUSHALAYIM — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration intends to work with the incoming Israeli government, while finessing the question of whether that includes the right-wing figures that American officials have expressed concerns about.

“We will engage the government by the policies and procedures, rather than individual personalities,” Blinken told the annual conference of the left-wing J Street lobby. “We will hold to the standards we’ve established our relationship over the past several decades. And we will speak honestly and respectfully with our Israeli friends as partners always should.”

Since the November election in Israel, there has been speculation that the U.S. will not engage directly with Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who is slated to become finance minister after his demand to be made defense minister was rebuffed by Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, and Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, in line to be national security minister.

Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides refused to say whether he would meet with Ben Gvir, in an interview last week.

Blinken’s remarks came somewhat in contrast to those of the foreign minister of Bahrain on Sunday, who gave Netanyahu one of the warmer greetings from abroad that he’s received since the November election.

“Allow me at this point to congratulate Israel for the successful election that took place,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdul Latef Al Zayani told Israeli and Bahraini journalists during President Isaac Herzog’s visit.

“And we truly in Bahrain look forward to work with the new government under the leadership of one of the major signatories and partners of the Abraham Accords,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Netanyahu again sought to reassure Americans that he will be in charge and will see to it that minority rights will not be harmed and extremist measures are not introduced.

“I just won’t accept any of that. It’s not something I’m saying now — I have a record now and a record in general of having two hands on the wheel…I ultimately decide policy,” he said.

“I’m going to safeguard Israeli democracy, I’m going to bring peace, categorically… and I’m going to stop Iran. That’s what I’m coming back for, and that’s what I’m committing to,” he added

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