Blinken calls for calm, reaffirms the ‘armored’ American support for Israel | News about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for “calm” and “de-escalation” between Israelis and Palestinians, while reiterating Washington’s “armored” commitment to Israel.

At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Jerusalem, Blinken reaffirmed that the administration of US President Joe Biden will continue normalization efforts between Israel and Arab states, in order to “integrate” the country into the region.

In his first visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since Netanyahu’s far-right government took office late last year, the top US diplomat also praised the US-Israel alliance.

“It is important that the government and people of Israel know that America’s commitment to their security remains strong,” Blinken said. “That commitment is underpinned by nearly 75 years of support from the United States. America’s commitment never faltered; never will.”

His trip comes amid an eruption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, with the Israeli military carrying out near-daily deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank.

Last week, Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank, including nine in the Jenin refugee camp. A day later, a Palestinian gunman fatally shot seven Israelis in a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

On Monday, Blinken paid tribute to Israeli victims without mentioning Palestinians killed by Israel.

Despite rising tensions, Blinken’s remarks appeared to emphasize regional normalization and countering Iran, amid concerns over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Blinken reiterated US verbal support for a two-state solution, but did not explicitly criticize Israel’s policy of expanding illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — territories the Palestinians claim as the home of their future state.

“Anything that takes us away from that [two-state] The vision is – in our judgment – ​​harmful to Israel’s long-term security and its long-term identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Blinken. “That’s why we now call on all parties to take immediate steps to restore peace, to de-escalate.”

Reporting from East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s James Bays said Blinken — who began his Middle East tour in Egypt on Sunday — was not expected to launch any major initiative to end the conflict.

“The policy of the Biden administration, since Joe Biden became president, has basically been to keep things under wraps, encourage restraint on both sides — but not get bogged down in any negotiations, not really proactively try to move diplomacy,” Bays said.

Blinken on Monday emphasized US support for the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, in which neighboring Jordan serves as the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“We also remain committed to supporting religious coexistence and diversity, including in Jerusalem,” Blinken said. “We continue to support the maintenance of the historical status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif. We are grateful to the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] for his repeated expressions of support for that position.”

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians rose earlier this month after an ultra-nationalist minister in Netanyahu’s government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a move that Palestinian and Arab leaders condemned as a “provocation”.

Despite the right-wing orientation of the Israeli government, the Biden administration has emphasized that its support for Israel will remain unconditional.

Israel — accused by leading human rights groups of imposing a system of apartheid against the Palestinians — receives at least $3.8 billion in US military aid each year.

Iran file

Standing with Blinken, Netanyahu focused on Iran in his brief comments to the press on Monday — not the escalation of violence with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, under which Tehran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against its economy.

The Biden administration has said it is committed to renewing the accord, which was scrapped by former US President Donald Trump, but indirect talks between Tehran and Washington have stalled due to anti-government protests in Iran.

“My policy is to do everything in Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and it will remain so,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “But obviously the fact that we and the United States are working together is something that’s important to this common goal as well.”

Iran has denied that it is seeking nuclear weapons and points to Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. Israel is one of the few countries in the world that is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

“We agree that Iran must never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons,” Blinken said Monday. “And we talked about deepening cooperation to confront Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond.”

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