US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visits Israel amid growing tension in the region

Following rising tension between Israelis and Palestinians, the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has visited Jerusalem to assure the people of Israel that the government in the United States has not changed its resolve to stand with them. 

The top-American diplomat, who is on a state visit to the middle east, stopped by in Egypt before heading to Israel on Monday. Upon his arrival, he was quick to condemn last week’s killing of seven Israelis by a Palestinian gunman, describing it as “especially shocking” to have happened at a worship place. He stressed that vengeance would not calm the already scary situation and that citizens should not take the laws into their hands.  

“Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer. And acts of retaliatory violence against civilians are never justified,” Secretary Blinken stated. 

Monday’s visit by Anthony Blinken was the first of its kind since Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government took control of the affairs of Israel. Issues discussed between Secretary Blinken and the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel include the US-Israeli relationship, a two-state solution to the unending crises between Israel and Palestine, and the Iran nuclear deal. 

US-Israeli relationship

The United States is often considered Israel’s closest and most reliable ally. Over the years, Washington has always remained on the side of Israel and refused to openly condemn most of its controversial decisions at the UN General Assembly. The US has come under criticism for always sticking to Israel, even when there are issues of human rights abuses like the murder of Aljazeera journalist Abu-Akleh.

However, as Mr Blinken visits Israel, he has assured its people that the relationship between the two countries is unbreakable. 

“It’s important that the government and people of Israel know America’s commitment to their security remains ironclad. That commitment is backed up by nearly 75 years of United States support. America’s commitment has never wavered; it never will,” Mr Blinken said. Successive United States presidents have stood on Israel’s side since its formation in 1948, a move that makes its neighbours, mostly Arabs, uncomfortable.

Despite Israel being accused of human rights violations and of running an apartheid government against Palestinians, it receives military aid worth $3.8bn from the United States every year.  While the US is criticised for its dealings with the Israelis, some have considered such support necessary. Without such support, the State of Israel could face unprecedented pressure from Palestine and other countries in the middle east. 

A two-State solution

On Monday, Mr Blinken restated the US commitment to a two-state solution to the numerous challenges between Israel and Palestine. Despite the recommendation, both sides have refused to implement it. 

“Anything that moves us away from that [two-state] vision is — in our judgement — detrimental to Israel’s long-term security and its long-term identity as a Jewish and democratic state. That’s why we’re urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate,” Mr Blinken stated. 

The United Nations proposed a two-state solution to the conflicts, which will have an independent state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel. However, where will become the boundary between the two states remains a controversy after many years. The Palestinians would not accept anything short of the 1967 borders. The Israeli government has continued to adjust its map and borders as they expand its base in the proposed state of Palestine. 

Blinken encourages religious tolerance

Apart from the issues of the border between the two sides, the majority of the people of Israel practice Judaism. On the other hand, Palestinians and most of Isreal’s neighbours are Muslims. Hence the debate about who owns the religious sites in the region. During Blinken’s press conference on Monday, he stressed the need for both sides to live in harmony despite their religious differences and called on both sides to respect the status quo of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“We also remain committed to supporting religious coexistence and diversity, including in Jerusalem. We continue to support upholding the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places, including the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif. We’re grateful to the prime minister for his repeated expressions of support for that position,” Blinken stated.

Last month, controversial Israeli Police minister Ben Gvir visited the contentious religious site, which Palestinians believe was an attempt to change the status quo. The move led to a series of protests in Palestine.

Iran must not own nuclear weapons

Both Blinken and Netanyahu were on the same page regarding not allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons. The nuclear talks between the former President of the United States Donald Trump and Iran have collapsed following anti-government protests in Iran.

“My policy is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and that will remain so,” Netanyahu said in his brief remark on Monday. “But obviously the fact that we and the United States are working together is something that is important for this common goal as well.”

Netanyahu has been a strong opponent to Iran having nuclear weapons, but Iran, on the other hand, has accused Israel of being hypocritical because of its nuclear arsenals. After Netanyahu’s comments, Secretary Blinken reiterated the US commitment to block Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

“We agree that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. And we discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region and beyond,” Blinken stated.

The visit by Secretary Blinken to the State of Israel has been widely talked about by the media. However, the question many are asking is if the visit would further create a division between Palestine and Israel or quench the growing tension. The coming days shall tell if something good came out of the visit.


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