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Blinken reaffirms two-state solution ahead of Israeli-Palestinian visit

u.s. secretary of state antony blinken visits israel
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers a statement upon arrival at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on January 30, 2023. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to calm tensions as he visited on Monday during the worst violence in years, reaffirming a long-stalled peace vision as the “only path” forward.

While focusing censure on a Palestinian gun spree outside a synagogue that has put Israel on high alert, Blinken also cautioned against any celebration or avenging of such bloodshed.

Seven people were shot dead in Friday’s attack by an East Jerusalem man who was himself killed by police. Lionised by many fellow Palestinians, he had no known links to militant groups.

A day earlier, Israel carried out an unusually deep raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, killing 10 residents, most of them gunmen. At least 35 Palestinians have died in violence surging since Jan. 1, medical officials say.

“It is the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them,” Blinken told reporters after landing in Tel Aviv.

Friday’s rampage, he said, “was more than attack on individuals. It was also an attack on the universal act of practising one’s faith. We condemn it in the strongest terms.

“And we condemn all those who celebrate these and any other acts of terrorism that take innocent lives, no matter who the victim is or what they believe. Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Blinken will meet later on Monday, has called for more citizens to carry guns as a precaution against such street attacks. But he has also warned Israelis not to resort to vigilante violence.

Blinken is due to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

Palestinian officials said Israeli settlers had set fire on Monday to two cars near the northern West Bank city of Nablus and thrown stones at a house near Ramallah, following a similar attack on Sunday.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed a 26-year-old man at a checkpoint. The army said troops opened fire on the man’s car after he rammed into one of them and attempted to flee an inspection.

The last round of U.S.-sponsored talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.

Netanyahu’s new hardline government includes partners who oppose Palestinian statehood, and control over the Palestinian territories is divided between Abbas, who favours diplomacy, and rival Hamas Islamists who are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Washington remains “a stalwart believer in the negotiated two-state solution – the only path to a lasting resolution for the conflict,” Blinken said in earlier remarks in Cairo.

The United States has voiced support for Israel’s security and for Palestinians to enjoy equal measures of dignity.

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