Supporting “urgent humanitarian reconstruction assistance in Gaza” and “continuing to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the PA” would be major focuses of the trip, says top US diplomat.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched down in Israel on Tuesday morning, starting off his visit to the Jewish State by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
The two men said in a press conference held after the meeting that they had discussed a number of issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as regional security issues around Iran.
“President Biden asked me to come here today really for four reasons,” Blinken said. “First, to demonstrate the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, to start to work toward greater stability and reduced tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
He added that supporting “urgent humanitarian reconstruction assistance in Gaza” and “continuing to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority” would be major focuses of the trip.
Expressing sorrow for “losses [of life] on both sides,” Blinken said that “as the Talmud teaches, to lose a life is to lose the whole world, whether that life is Palestinian or Israeli.”
Delving into the U.S.’s upcoming plans to help rebuild Gaza, he promised a “significant contribution” towards that effort, and said the Biden administration would work hard to “ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance.”
Blinken promised that the U.S. will “continue to strengthen all aspects of our longstanding partnership, and that includes consulting closely with Israel…. on the ongoing negotiations…around a potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement.”
“In our own country, we witnessed a shocking eruption of anti-Semitic attacks,” Blinken stated after the meeting, quoting President Biden who said that “are despicable and they must stop.”
Netanyahu thanked the Biden administration and Blinken for their “firm support for Israel’s right to self-defense.” He added that he and Blinken had “discussed ways to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament.”
Regarding a peace agreement the Palestinians, Netanyahu said, “President Biden was absolutely correct when he said you’re not going to get peace until Israel is recognized as an independent Jewish state, and that is the key.”
He also thanked Biden and Blinken for their “strong statements against anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.
“You took a bold position, a clear position, and we appreciate it,” he said. “I think all decent people everywhere appreciate that stance.
After meeting with Netanyahu, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah.
Reuters reported that Blinken will also visit Jordan and Egypt, but the U.S. State Department has not officially confirmed those destinations on the itinerary.