Blinken Urges to Calm Tensions as He Arrives in Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers a statement upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, on Monday. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT/Pool via REUTERS)

TEL AVIV (Reuters/Hamodia) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to calm tensions as he visited on Monday during the worst violence in years, reaffirming a long-stalled peace vision as the “only path” forward.

While focusing censure on a Palestinian gun spree outside a shul that has put Israel on high alert, Blinken also cautioned against any celebration or avenging of such bloodshed.

“It is the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them,” Blinken told reporters after landing in Tel Aviv.

Friday’s rampage, he said, “was more than attack on individuals. It was also an attack on the universal act of practicing one’s faith. We condemn it in the strongest terms.

“And we condemn all those who celebrate these and any other acts of terrorism that take innocent lives, no matter who the victim is or what they believe. Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom Blinken met later on Monday, has called for more citizens to carry guns as a precaution against such street attacks. But he has also warned Israelis not to resort to vigilante violence.

Blinken is due to see Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

The last round of U.S.-sponsored talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.

Netanyahu’s new government includes partners who oppose Palestinian statehood, and control over the Palestinian territories is divided between Abbas, who favors diplomacy, and rival Hamas Islamists who are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Washington remains “a stalwart believer in the negotiated two-state solution – the only path to a lasting resolution for the conflict,” Blinken said in earlier remarks in Cairo.

The United States has voiced support for Israel’s security and for Palestinians to enjoy equal measures of dignity.

Later, in Yerushalayim, Blinken offered advice on the debate over judicial reforms that has been dividing the country.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu after their one-on-one meeting, he reiterated support for “core democratic principles,” and said that “building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they’re embraced and that they endure.”

In case Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters did not know, Blinken enumerated  the principles, including minority rights, the rule of law, a free press, an active civil society, and “rights of people to make their voices heard.”

The top US diplomat proclaimed that the two countries must hold themselves “to the mutual standards we’ve established.”

He and Netanyahu had “a frank conversation” about these issues, he said, usually code for disagreement.

So far, the government has rejected overtures, notably by National Unity party leader Benny Gantz, to establish a multi-party panel to work out a compromise solution for the judicial reform issue.

Instead, Justice Minister Yariv Levin has promised a full and fair debate in the Knesset when his proposals come up for a vote.

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