US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Palestinian leaders for his final leg of a Middle East tour that comes at a critical time as Israel and Palestine reel from a series of shocks. devastating attacks that threaten an explosion of violence.
After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, Blinken traveled to the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
An Israeli operation in the Jenin refugee camp last week, one of its deadliest raids in the West Bank in decades, killed 10 Palestinians, mostly gunmen but also two civilians, including a 61-year-old woman. years. The following day, an armed Palestinian killed seven Israelis outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem in the worst such attack in recent memory.
Nearly two dozen people have been killed in total over the past week as heightened tensions have led to retaliatory attacks, including shootings, targeting Israelis and Palestinians.
Blinken called for “urgent action to restore calm,” but acknowledged that would be difficult. “We want to make sure that there is an environment in which we can hopefully at some point create the conditions in which we can begin to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians, which of course is sorely lacking,” he said. after meeting Netanyahu.
Expectations that Washington’s top envoy can pull the region off the path to more bloodshed are close to zero, with Blinken repeating the US government’s longstanding aspirations for a “two-state solution” in which the Palestinians would get their own country – an idea that is openly rejected by far-right figures in Israel’s new government.
Rather, Blinken’s visit is seen as an attempt to contain the issue, part of Joe Biden’s efforts to ensure the Israeli-Palestinian crisis doesn’t overshadow broader US goals, especially defeat from Russia to Ukraine.
In Ramallah, Blinken is expected to urge Abbas to continue working with Israel on security issues, which were cut in anger after the Jenin raid.
Abbas, however, has limited power and remains deeply unpopular among Palestinians, who accuse him of acting as a contractor to Israel to carry out its occupation. A new generation of frustrated and armed Palestinian militias, unconnected to their increasingly isolated leaders, is gaining strength.
In Israel, the Netanyahu government’s response to the killings has been to propose new measures that further punish Palestinians, including making it easier to demolish the family homes of those who carry out attacks – a practice that has been widely condemned as collective punishment. The government also wants to make it easier for Israeli citizens to carry guns.