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World News | As Blinken visits, Israel-Palestine cauldron tests US

World News | As Blinken visits, Israel-Palestine cauldron tests US

JERUSALEM, Jan. 30 (AP) — The alarming surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence comes amid growing distrust and anger over Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Israel and the West Bank. The backlash from both sides is testing the Biden administration this week.

The trip, which had been expected to be fraught with tension amid disagreements between the government and the new far-right government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has turned violent after a series of deadly incidents over the past four days. more complicated.

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Blinken began his high-line diplomacy on Monday after completing a brief visit to Egypt, which has been almost completely overshadowed by the deteriorating security situation in Israel and the West Bank.

The topic of Blinken’s conversations with Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will be “de-escalation,” U.S. officials said. However, just a day before Blinken’s arrival in Israel, Netanyahu’s security cabinet announced a series of punitive measures against Palestinians in response to a weekend of deadly shootings in which Palestinian attackers killed seven Israelis in Jerusalem. people, wounding five others. The shootings followed a deadly Israeli attack in the West Bank on Thursday that killed 10 Palestinians, most of them militants.

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The violence made January one of the bloodiest months in years in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. While Blinken’s trip has been planned for weeks and will follow visits by President Biden’s national security adviser Jack Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns, it will be the first time since Netanyahu last month. The highest-level U.S. contact with Netanyahu since returning to power and the first since Netanyahu took office. Violence surged.

Already battling the far-right policies of the new Israeli government and opposing a two-state solution to the long-running conflict, U.S. officials have yet to weigh retaliatory measures, including cordoning off and demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers, revoking social security benefits for their families, and Distribute more weapons to Israeli civilians.

Perhaps most worrisome is Netanyahu’s vague pledge to “strengthen” Israeli settlements in the West Bank, built on occupied land that Palestinians claim is the heartland of a future state.

Bezalel Smotrich, the ultranationalist cabinet minister Netanyahu appointed to oversee settlement policy, said he would seek new buildings in the strategic West Bank site of E1. The United States has repeatedly blocked previous Israeli attempts to develop the area.

However, U.S. officials have criticized Abbas’ decision to suspend Palestinian-Israel security cooperation following the West Bank raid.

“We want all parties not to stop security cooperation, but to really strengthen security coordination,” said Barbara Leaf, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East. “We urge de-escalation and let the situation calm down.”

Ahead of his meeting with Blinken, Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel’s response was not intended to heighten tensions.

“We do not seek escalation, but we are prepared for any situation,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting. “Our response to terrorism is a hard strike and a strong, swift and accurate response.”

Palestinians and some human rights groups argue that Israel’s retaliatory actions, including demolishing the homes of the attackers’ families, constitute collective punishment and violate international law.

The turmoil added another item to Blinken’s lengthy diplomatic agenda, which was already set to include Russia’s war on Ukraine, tensions with Iran and crises in Lebanon and Syria; all of which have major implications for U.S.-Israel relations.

While Netanyahu opposes two of Biden’s main priorities in the Middle East: reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, easing tensions on these issues, or at least avoiding new ones, would be a big challenge for Biden. Lincoln’s mission was crucial. But with both issues stalled and with little hope of resuming talks, the government is trying to keep the concepts alive.

Meanwhile, the government is determined to improve relations with the Palestinians that it severed with former President Donald Trump. While it has restored suspended U.S. aid, its goals of reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to deal with the Palestinian issue and the possibility of allowing Palestinians to reopen their diplomatic mission in Washington have been stymied by both the Israeli opposition and Israel. Legal obstacles in the United States.

Blinken is unlikely to offer the Palestinians any signs of progress on either issue, while urging further political reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

The United States has also remained silent on Netanyahu’s proposed sweeping overhaul of Israel’s judicial system, which would allow lawmakers to override Supreme Court decisions.

Mass protests have taken place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in recent weeks, with critics saying the proposals would seriously damage Israel’s democratic status.

“It’s clear that this package of judicial legislation has sparked intense, intense discussion and debate in Israeli society,” Leaf said. “It’s clearly a measure of the vitality of democracy, and it’s being debated at all levels of Israeli society.”

While she and other U.S. officials have spoken about the importance of “shared values” with Israel, they have avoided commenting on what they see as purely domestic issues.

“But now it’s a problem” because of the speed and scope of it being raised, the public outcry and the growing concern among U.S. Jewish leaders and members of Congress, said Eytan Gilbo, a U.S.-Israel expert at Bar-Ilan University. Gilboa) said.

“People are confused about what the Israeli government is doing,” he said. “If Iran is the main problem for Netanyahu, by pushing for judicial reform, he is diverting attention from the number one and more critical issue of Iran’s nuclear program.” (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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