US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week as part of an urgent trip to the Middle East aimed at preventing further escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. With tensions high following recent clashes, Blinken is pushing for all sides to agree to a ceasefire and eventually return to peace talks.
Blinken Presses Netanyahu on Avoiding Civilian Casualties
Blinken’s first stop was in Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials on Tuesday. In remarks after those talks, Blinken emphasized the need for Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it carries out operations in Gaza, while also affirming US support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks.
Sources indicate the discussions were tense at times, with Netanyahu firmly resisting calls for an immediate ceasefire or criticism of the Israeli military’s tactics. Blinken warned that the high civilian death toll was undermining support for Israel among Palestinians and the international community. The two sides did agree to cooperate on allowing a UN technical mission to evaluate the situation in northern Gaza.
Secretary Criticized by Right-Wing Protesters
A group of right-wing Israeli protesters gathered outside Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu to criticize American interference and any limitations on Israeli military actions against Hamas. Some held signs accusing Blinken of allowing a “genocide” against Israel.
Blinken later called accusations of genocide against Israel “meritless” but said the Palestinian people still deserved to have their own state in the future.
|Dead and Injured from Recent Israel-Hamas Clashes
|44 Palestinians killed in Gaza
|300+ Palestinians wounded
|No Israeli deaths reported
|Several Israelis injured
Abbas Meeting Marked by Arguments Over Reconciliation
On Wednesday, Blinken traveled to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Authority officials. Sources say this meeting was also contentious at times.
The Secretary of State pushed Abbas to make governance reforms as a condition of US assistance in rebuilding Gaza after the current fighting ends. But Abbas demanded that Israel first commit to allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in modern-day Israel.
Blinken reiterated US support for an eventual two-state solution but said Palestinian reconciliation and reform were essential first steps to restarting a stalled peace process with Israel.
Securing Regional Support for De-escalation
Before heading to Israel and the West Bank, Blinken made stops in Turkey and Jordan on Monday to coordinate with leaders of those countries on how to prevent further chaos in the region. Both Turkish and Jordanian officials emphasized the risks of the conflict spiraling out of control and potentially destabilizing the broader Middle East.
Blinken is set to continue his shuttle diplomacy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar later this week, appealing to key regional partners to use their leverage with different sides in the Gaza war. The goal is to secure consensus from Arab states on the urgent need for de-escalation, which could increase pressure on warring parties to agree to a ceasefire.
With violence continuing and diplomatic efforts struggling so far, there is not yet a clear path towards ending the bloodshed in the near term. Blinken warned of potential “catastrophic” consequences if the fighting drags on and spreads further throughout the region. But US officials say he will keep up mediation efforts as long as necessary.
The urgency of Blinken’s mission underscores how the spiral of attacks and retaliation between Israel and Hamas risks igniting a wider regional conflagration. With the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process nowhere close to resolution, containing this outbreak of violence is the priority. But the Secretary’s talks highlighted just how complex that task is proving given uncompromising stands on both sides.
What comes next will depend on whether Blinken can enlist enough international and regional backing for de-escalation that the parties involved have no choice but to fall in line. Without that, Gaza residents will continue suffering the consequences as Israeli airstrikes persist while Hamas shows no signs of halting rocket barrages.
US diplomacy faces pressure to deliver fast results before the crisis gets any further out of control. But Blinken’s Middle East tour is so far spotlighting the enduring divides that have defied solution for decades when it comes to this eternally volatile region.
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