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Blinken criticises settlements but stresses US support for Israel | Israel-Palestine conflict News

In a rare – if implicit – criticism of Israel, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Israel’s policies, including expanding settlements and demolishing houses, detrimental to the two-state solution.

However, at a press conference following his visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on Tuesday, Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s ironclad commitment to Israel.

“The United States is determined to work towards our enduring goal of ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal rights of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity,” Blinken said, emphasizing the need to preserve the “vision” of the two states. decision.

“The United States will continue to oppose anything that moves this goal further from achievement, including, but not limited to, settlement expansion and the legalization of illegal outposts, moves towards the annexation of the West Bank, disruption of the historic status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and also inciting and condoning violence.”

Human rights activists have long urged Washington to put pressure on Israel to stop its abuses of the Palestinians.

The US provides at least $3.8 billion worth of military aid to Israel every year while insisting on blocking international efforts to denounce Israeli violations, including at the United Nations.

Successive U.S. administrations, including the administration of President Joe Biden, have maintained unwavering support for Israel as they rhetorically supported a two-state solution, a prospect that many experts say is no longer realistic due to Israel’s settlement policy.

“I reaffirmed to Israel and its people the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security of Israel. The rising tide of violence has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives on both sides,” Blinken said on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in occupied Ramallah.

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

Abbas’s office released a statement through the Palestinian news agency WAFA blaming Israel for the recent crisis and for stifling the two-state solution and violating international law.

“This is happening at a time when Israel is continuing – without any deterrence or accountability – its unilateral operations, including settlements, de facto annexation, settler terrorism,” the Palestinian president said.

Abbas also condemned that Israel is “violating the historical status quo and destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and “holding [Palestinian] means, along with the policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid”.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians soared earlier this month after an ultra-nationalist minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the Al-Aqsa mosque complex in what was condemned as a “provocation” by Palestinian and Arab leaders.

On Tuesday, Abbas indirectly attacked US opposition to Palestinian diplomatic pressure to hold Israeli abuses accountable.

“Continuous opposition to the efforts of the Palestinian people to defend their existence and their legitimate rights in international forums and courts, as well as to ensure the international protection of our people, is a policy that encourages the Israeli occupiers to commit new crimes and violates international law. ” Abbas said.

At his press conference, Blinken said Washington’s first priority was “to restore calm” and defuse tensions between Israelis and Palestinians before moving towards a long-term settlement.

Blinken added that he asked members of his team to stay in the region to help with this goal.

Earlier in the day, he said the US was working to open a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, a Biden campaign promise that remains unfulfilled amid Israeli opposition. Former President Donald Trump closed the US legation to Palestinians as he nearly cut ties with the Palestinian leadership.

Blinken said Tuesday that Washington is seeking to “rebuild” its relationship with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.

A senior US diplomat did not mention Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akle, a US citizen who was fatally wounded by Israeli forces last year, in public statements while in Israel.

Asked if Blinken had raised the issue of Abu Akle’s murder with Israeli officials, a US State Department spokesman referred to Al Jazeera about “public reports” of meetings between senior diplomats. The murdered journalist is not mentioned in the available testimony.

Blinken said on Tuesday he had discussed with Israeli officials deepening cooperation to counter Iran amid stalled diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Tehran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions on its economy.

“We have continued what has been an ongoing discussion of how we can continue to work together, cooperate – and not only us, with other countries – in countering the malign activities that Iran is engaged in, whether in this region or beyond,” Blinken told reporters.

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