Blinken Renews Appeal for Israel-Palestinian Calm

A person burns a banner with an image of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a protest against the visit of Blinken, in Gaza City on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up a two-day visit to Israel and Yehudah and Shomron on Tuesday with renewed appeals for Israeli-Palestinian calm amid an alarming spike of violence.

Blinken met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after seeing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Standing alongside the Israeli leader, Blinken stressed the importance the Biden administration places on resolving the long-running conflict with a two-state solution.

However, beyond urging a de-escalation of tensions, Blinken offered no new U.S. initiative to do so. There were no signs that Blinken was making progress on even the modest goal of halting the latest wave of violence, much less of addressing the broader issues surrounding peace talks.

Abbas placed all blame for the spike in violence on Israel and berated the international community for not doing more to pressure Israel.

“We affirm that the Israeli government is responsible for what is happening today,” he said, adding: “Israel is being overlooked, without deterrence or accountability, as it continues its unilateral operations.”

He called for the “complete cessation” of those operations, saying that would be “the main entry point for returning the political horizon.”

Blinken’s visit comes amid one of the deadliest periods in Yehudah and Shomron and in Yerushalayim in years. The violence has further complicated the administration’s already difficult attempts to find common ground with Netanyahu’s government.

In Ramallah, Blinken was expected to discuss the Palestinian Authority’s decision to halt security coordination with Israel. The security ties, which in the past are believed to have helped contain violence, are deeply unpopular among everyday Palestinians, who accuse Abbas of acting as a subcontractor for the Israeli military.

Following a meeting with Blinken on Monday, Netanyahu made only passing reference to the Palestinians and focused instead on Iran, which he believes is his most urgent security priority.

Before leaving for Ramallah, Blinken met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who repeated the prime minister’s concern about Iran.

“Your visit comes at a critical time,” Gallant said. “It sends a clear message to the region: the United States and Israel are united facing Iran or anyone threatening peace and stability in the region.”

Blinken agreed about unity when confronting Iran and preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security remains ‘ironclad’ but suggested there was more on his agenda. “We have a lot on our hands in this moment and so I couldn’t see you at a better time,” he said.

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