Blinken calls on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to ‘restore calm’ in wake of latest violence

US secretary of state holds talks with Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of meeting with Mahmoud Abbas

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to step away from the brink following the latest upsurge in violence.

Mr Blinken planned his visit to Israel a few weeks ago to meet with representatives of Israel’s new government but his arrival coincided with the worst escalation in years. A deadly Israeli raid in the West Bank last Thursday was followed by rocket fire from Gaza and two attacks on civilians in Jerusalem.

“We are urging all sides to take urgent steps to restore calm, and to de-escalate,” Mr Blinken said after talks with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

He reiterated that, despite the escalation, Washington remained committed to a two-state resolution to the conflict. “Anything that moves us away from that vision is detrimental to Israel’s long-term security and its long-term identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “We want to make sure there is an environment where we can start to restore security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”


And, in a rare comment on Israeli domestic affairs, Mr Blinken hinted that a broad consensus was needed for the Israeli government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

“Building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they are embraced and that they endure,” he said.

“We share common interests and common values,” said Mr Netanyahu. “We will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies.”

Mr Netanyahu stressed Israel’s desire to expand the Abraham Accords and normalise relations with additional Arab countries. Mr Blinken agreed but stressed that such a development was “not a substitute for Israel-Palestinian peace”.

Both men reiterated that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear bomb.

“I think there’s a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons. We’ve had very good discussions on forming a common policy, on trying to work together to thwart the danger,” Mr Netanyahu said.

The comments came after a New York Times report indicated Israel was behind Saturday’s drone attack on a weapons factory in the Iranian city of Isfahan – the first attack inside Iran attributed to Israel’s new government.

On Tuesday, Mr Blinken will travel the short distance to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

He is expected to urge the Palestinian leadership to reconsider its decision, taken after last week’s raid in Jenin which killed nine Palestinians, to break off security co-operation with Israel.

The Palestinians are expected to raise concerns over Israel’s intention to expand settlement construction – and particularly the call by far-right ministers to expedite construction plans in the area called E1 ,which lies between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, effectively dividing the West Bank in two for Palestinians.

A senior Palestinian official warned that any Israeli action would be met with a Palestinian reaction.

“We will go to the UN Security Council, The Hague, and the situation on the ground will escalate,” he said, warning that any weakening of the Palestinian Authority would only strengthen Hamas.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem