US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has concluded his visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, offering little but lip service to Palestinians while maintaining unconditional support for Israel.
Monday was the start of Blinken’s first visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders since the installment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing coalition government.
The visit followed a flare-up in violence in the occupied West Bank as Israel seeks to expand discriminatory policy aims, outlined in the new government’s guiding principles and coalition agreements.
Just days before Blinken’s visit, Israeli forces conducted a military raid into the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, killing 10 Palestinians - one of the deadliest raids in nearly two decades. The next day, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on Israeli Jews in occupied East Jerusalem, killing seven.
The Israeli government retaliated against the shooting in occupied East Jerusalem and introduced a series of punitive measures targeting Palestinians. The measures include plans to make it easier for Israelis to obtain weapons, strengthen illegal Jewish settlements and cancel social security and health benefits for the families of Palestinian attackers.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that Israeli forces and settlers have killed 35 Palestinians, including eight children and an elderly woman in the month of January in the occupied West Bank.
Despite the escalating violence, Blinken offered no new US initiative beyond calling for “de-escalation”.
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'Ironclad' support and continued impunity
While Blinken called for de-escalation, he also removed US responsibility from facilitating a real peace process.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Blinken said he had heard “some concrete ideas” from Israelis and Palestinians but added: “It is fundamentally up to them. They have to work together to find a path forward that both defuse the current cycle of violence and, I hope, also leads to positive steps to build back some confidence.”
During the press conference, Blinken reaffirmed “ironclad” US support for Israel, minimising the role that unconditional support for one side plays in maintaining inequality and violence in the country.
A spokesperson for the US State Department this week refused to even say that Palestinians are subject to military occupation under the Israeli government, a status recognised under international humanitarian law.
“Dehumanising and erasing the Palestinian suffering under occupation will not calm tempers and will not assure ordinary Palestinians that this Biden administration sees them or understands their pain and understands the fact that the source of this pain is the ongoing Israeli occupation,” political analyst Nour Odeh tells TRT World.
During his visit, Blinken repeated the US government’s longstanding aspirations for a “two-state solution” – an idea that is openly rejected by Israel’s political establishment and has lost all legitimacy in the view of the vast majority of Palestinians.
After addressing the increasing violence with the same, tired lines, Blinken shifted focus to the main concerns of the US-Israeli alliance.
Items on the agenda included a strategy for how to deal with the nuclear situation in Iran, Israel's pursuit of a peace deal with Saudi Arabia and proposed plans for a judicial overhaul that would weaken the Israeli Supreme Court.
Where Palestinians once featured as a main cause for concern in US-Israeli relations, they have been increasingly side-lined.
“Blinken’s message is clear in its highlight,” Palestinian official and director of monitoring settlement activity in the West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Mondoweiss. “There is no pressure on Israel to change its practices.”
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