Blinken to travel to Israel, West Bank, urge end to violence

Next a deadly Israeli raid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt the following week, the State Department announced Thursday. There, he will call for an end to violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blinken will engage in their first face-to-face discussions since the seasoned leader returned to office and formed Israel’s most right-wing administration in history.

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On his visit on Monday and Tuesday, he will also have a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ramallah.

According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, Blinken “would emphasize the urgent need for the parties to take efforts to de-escalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of bloodshed that has killed too many innocent lives.”

Blinken will first on Sunday visit Egypt, a key intermediary between the Israelis and Palestinians which has succeeded in maintaining cordial ties with the administration of President Joe Biden despite his vows to get tougher due to human rights concerns.

According to the State Department, Blinken will meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and address regional challenges, such as Libya and Sudan.

Despite extensive planning, the journey takes place just after a significant escalation in violence. Israeli forces raided a packed refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, killing nine Palestinians, according to authorities in the occupied region.

Netanyahu has a tense relationship with Biden’s Democratic Party since he publicly campaigns against Obama’s administration’s Iran policy, and Biden is anxious to get his new administration off to a good start.

Blinken’s visit comes after one by Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, who spent most of his time on Iran, which is still a primary concern for Netanyahu.

Blinken has repeatedly said that the Biden administration will judge Netanyahu’s government by “the policies they pursue, not the personalities” that are inside it.

Those personalities include Itamar Ben-Gvir, who once hung a portrait in his home of a gunman who massacred Palestinian worshippers and now holds a national security post.

Ben-Gvir in early January sparked international statements of concern as he visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is holy both to Jews and Muslims. The United States urged Israel to preserve the status quo at the ultra-sensitive religious site, which Jews call the Temple Mount.

But despite the public concern over the far-right figures, Netanyahu appears to be succeeding so far in preserving normalization efforts with the Arab world, which he sees as one of his key achievements.

Netanyahu traveled to Jordan on Tuesday to meet with King Abdullah II. Jordan is the second Arab country after Egypt to recognize Israel.

Since the shift in leadership, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which established normalized ties with Israel in 2020 as a result of a collaboration sparked by a concern about Iran, have also continued to have talks with the Jewish state.

Since taking over as the top US ambassador, Blinken will be making his fourth trip to Jerusalem. After fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, he left for the first time in May 2021, months into his term.

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Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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