Blinken Meets with Palestinian Leader Abbas after Surge in Violence

Following talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, met the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah amid a sharp rise in tensions in the region.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited the occupied West Bank on Tuesday to meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and called for a defusing of the violence that has gripped the region, while conceding that Palestinians face dwindling prospects in their larger struggle for independence.

Mr. Blinken visited Mr. Abbas at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, part of a whirlwind regional tour coinciding with one of the deadliest months in the West Bank in several years. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in January, mostly during Israeli military raids.

The violence has also seeped into Jerusalem. A Palestinian martyr shot dead seven civilians outside a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem on Friday night — the worst attack in the city since 2008 — and there are fears of a further escalation in coming weeks. That has further complicated the Biden administration’s diplomacy with a new right-wing coalition government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Palestinians and Israelis alike are experiencing growing insecurity and fear in their homes and communities in their places of worship,” Mr. Blinken said. “We believe it’s important to take steps to de-escalate, to stop the violence, to reduce tensions — and to try as well to create the foundation for more positive actions going forward.”

Mr. Blinken said the United States continues to hope for a negotiated peace settlement that can lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. But talks to that end have been stalled for years, and Israel’s new government has shown more interest in the potential annexation of Palestinian land than in the possibility of statehood.

“What we’re seeing now for Palestinians is a shrinking horizon of hope, not an expanding one. And that, too, we believe needs to change,” he said. In a modest effort to assist that aim, he announced $50 million in new American funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to the Palestinians.

His meeting with the 87-year-old Mr. Abbas came a day after Mr. Blinken met in Jerusalem with Mr. Netanyahu and issued similar calls for both Israelis and Palestinians to reduce tensions.

A New Surge of Israeli-Palestinian Violence
A Turbulent Moment: The recent spasm of violence in Israel and the West Bank has left seven Israelis and at least 14 Palestinians dead.

Fueling Tensions: The roots of the violence predate Israel’s new far-right government, but analysts fear the administration’s ministers and goals will further inflame the situation.

Blinken’s Visit: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s trip to Israel comes as the bloody episodes have U.S. officials concerned about a potential major escalation in the country.

Mr. Abbas denounced Israel for depriving Palestinians of their rights, overseeing “annexation” of West Bank land and demolishing Palestinian homes there — steps that he said made it more difficult to achieve a peace agreement.

“We have found that the Israeli government is responsible for what’s happening these days,” he said.

But the Palestinian leader, reading from a prepared statement, also condemned the international community for allowing that to happen, though he did not single out the United States.

Mr. Blinken arrived in Ramallah from Jerusalem after his motorcade drove through the rain past Israeli checkpoints manned by soldiers with assault rifles.

Before seeing Mr. Abbas, Mr. Blinken stopped at a nearby nonprofit community center where he met with local entrepreneurs with ties to the United States.

With the small group seated in a semicircle around trays of sweets, Mr. Blinken said that the Biden administration had “set out to renew and strengthen our ties with the Palestinian people.”

Mr. Blinken’s meeting with Mr. Abbas had been expected to be tense. Palestinian officials said they hoped that Mr. Blinken might announce a new approach to ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and where hundreds of thousands of Israelis have since settled alongside millions of Palestinians.

But beyond money for the U.N. relief group, Mr. Blinken had nothing new in hand.

Distracted by other global challenges, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and amid Israeli opposition to Palestinian sovereignty as well as deep rifts in Palestinian society, the Biden administration has not prioritized the restoration of the peace process.


Mr. Blinken’s chief goal in Ramallah appeared to be persuading the Palestinian leadership to help reduce tensions in the West Bank, which in 2022 saw the highest Palestinian death toll — more than 170 were killed, often during Israeli operations.

Mr. Abbas made no specific call for his people to refrain from acts of violence, although neither did Mr. Netanyahu a day earlier.



Arab Observer

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