Blinken calls for lowering tensions in Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to ease tensions in the face of a surge in violence that has left the region on tenterhooks. The bloodshed has alarmed the government of US President Joe Biden as he seeks to find common ground with the new right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, apart from calls to stop the escalation of violence and to show restraint, Blinken did not publicly offer any particular ideas to calm the situation and it is not clear if after his meeting with Netanyahu the US government will propose any plan. Blinken will meet with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday.

“We are urging all parties now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to stop the escalation,” Blinken declared after meeting Netanyahu. “We want to make sure that there is an environment where we can — I hope there will be at some point — create conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security to Israelis and Palestinians alike, which of course is sorely needed.”

Blinken arrived during one of the deadliest periods of fighting in years in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. An Israeli military raid killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, and a Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside a synagogue in an East Jerusalem settlement on Friday. The next morning, a 13-year-old Palestinian teenager shot and wounded two Israelis at another site in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu did not mention the recent outbreak of violence in his brief remarks after the meeting, instead speaking of the dangers Iran poses to Israel and his hope to expand the so-called “Abraham Accords” — normalization deals with various Arab countries.

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“Expanding the circle of peace; working to finally close the file on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I believe will also help us achieve a viable solution with our Palestinian neighbors,” Netanyahu said in the only mention of him to the Palestinians.

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