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March 4, 2024

Blinken Seeks to Deescalate Israeli-Palestinian Crisis During Middle East Trip

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Jan 5, 2024

Background of the Conflict

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has embarked on another Middle East trip to try to ease tensions stemming from renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. This latest outbreak of violence began in early November when Israel launched a military operation in Gaza called “Breaking Dawn” in response to threats from the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

While the initial fighting was limited, it set off a chain of events that have brought the region to the brink of wider conflict. Hamas, the militant group controlling Gaza, eventually joined the battle against Israel. Meanwhile Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Iran’s proxies in the region have all issued threats if violence escalates further.

Escalating Regional Tensions

Blinken’s visit comes amid growing fears that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis could spiral into a regional war. The violence has already spread beyond Gaza, with tensions flaring between Israel and Lebanon.

In late December, Hezbollah fired several rockets towards Israel from Lebanon in what it said was retaliation for Israeli air strikes that killed some of its members in Syria. Israel responded by shelling southern Lebanon.

While both sides appear to have signaled they don’t want to go to war, the US is extremely concerned the situation remains precarious. There are also worries that unrest could spread to the occupied West Bank where violence has surged in recent weeks.

Pressure on Blinken for Progress

As Blinken travels to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and other countries, he faces heavy pressure to achieve some kind of deescalation and stability.

However, his challenges are considerable according to regional analyst Peter Sullivan:

“Blinken has an uphill battle to make progress ending violence and finding a longer lasting peace. The US has little leverage with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. And divisions between Palestinian factions have torpedoed previous peace initiatives.”

Blinken’s Itinerary Highlights Complex Diplomacy Required

Blinken’s delicate diplomatic mission will involve meetings with leaders from countries that are ostensible allies but also bitter rivals:

Country Meetings
Israel Prime Minister; Foreign Minister; President
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
Jordan King Abdullah
UAE Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
Saudi Arabia Crown Prince and Defense Minister

This complex itinerary highlights just some of the difficult regional dynamics at play. It also underlines how influential Arab states like Saudi Arabia and UAE have become in efforts to restrain Palestinian militant groups and broker ceasefires.

Tricky Balancing Act on Aid to Palestinians

One of Blinken’s toughest balancing acts will be on the fraught issue of financial assistance to the Palestinians. Large portions of Gaza have been reduced to rubble by Israeli air strikes. Hamas says reconstruction efforts are being hindered by Israeli restrictions on importing concrete and other materials which could supposedly be used to build tunnels and other military infrastructure.

The US has strict laws prohibiting funds going to Hamas which it designates a terrorist organization. Blinken wants to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians without the money ending up in Hamas’ hands. To achieve this, he is likely to resurrect ideas of a special monitoring mechanism used in the past after Gaza wars.

Pessimism Around Progress

While Blinken has praised moves by Israel and Palestinian militant groups to preserve calm in Gaza since November’s flare up, former US Ambassador Dennis Ross warns the situation remains extremely fragile:

“We’ve seen this movie before. Hamas acts to provoke a war, they lose the war they started, and the international community then gives them money to rebuild – even as Hamas diverts reconstruction materials to rebuilding their military capabilities.”

US officials are also downplaying expectations around big breakthroughs from Blinken’s trip.

After so many failed peace initiatives in the past, the goal right now is preventing another war rather than seeking a comprehensive settlement. With tensions still simmering across the region, there is little optimism US diplomacy can achieve much more than that in the short-term.

Conclusion

Antony Blinken faces monumental challenges on his trip to deescalate tensions and find stability in the wake of recent Israeli-Palestinians fighting. Preventing a slide into a ruinous regional conflagration will demand all of his diplomatic skills to restrain multiple warring parties. Even if Blinken makes progress on immediate deescalation, longer-term peace remains as elusive as ever. With the fundamental grievances fueling this decades-old conflict unresolved, the best the US Secretary of State can likely achieve is buying some time before the next war.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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