U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken moves to the West Bank on Tuesday, a day after calling for a halt to escalating violence and reaffirming Washington’s backing for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Blinken appealed for calm on both sides following last week’s killing by a Palestinian gunman of seven people outside a synagogue in the worst such attack in the Jerusalem area for years, bringing the total of Israelis killed in attacks by Palestinians since 2022 to 33 with three Ukrainians also killed.
He will meet Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders deeply disillusioned after months of raids by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank that have killed more than 200 Palestinians, including civilians as well as militant fighters, since 2022.
In January alone, 35 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops, in the bloodiest month since 2015, while officials say attacks on Palestinian property by Israeli settlers have also increased.
Last week, the PA suspended its security cooperation agreement with Israel after the largest raid in years, when Israeli forces penetrated deep into the refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, setting off a gunfight in which 10 Palestinians died.
As well as reiterating his call for calm and U.S. support for a two-state solution, Blinken is expected to discuss ways to help the Palestinian economy, heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, back in power at the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, has reinforced troops in the West Bank and promised measures to strengthen West Bank settlements but so far held off from more extreme steps.
On Tuesday, Blinken met Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, where they discussed cooperation to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon as well the worsening security situation in the occupied West Bank.
“He also expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, and emphasized the need for all parties to take steps to restore calm and de-escalate tensions,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
Hopes of achieving a two-state solution, with an independent Palestinian state based largely in the West Bank alongside Israel, have all but disappeared since the last round of U.S.-sponsored talks stalled in 2014.