Blinken raises settler violence in call with Gantz, as FM Cohen remains sidelined

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv on November 3, 2023. (State Department)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv on November 3, 2023. (State Department)

In a call earlier today with Minister Benny Gantz, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need for Israel to take “affirmative steps to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, including by confronting rising levels of settler extremist violence,” the US State Department says.

The decision by Blinken to call Gantz appears noteworthy, given his Israeli counterpart is Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and that the US generally maintains decorum with regard to officials engaging with their counterparts abroad.

But Gantz sits on the more senior war cabinet and is seen as a more moderate force in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government, with whom the Biden administration is likely to have an easier time working.

Gantz met with Blinken during the secretary’s visit to Israel earlier this month.

Cohen has not met or spoken with Blinken since Gantz agreed to join Netanyahu’s government on October 12. The foreign minister is also slated to be replaced as Israel’s top diplomat by Energy Minister Israel Katz of Likud at the end of the year.

During their call today, which focused largely on the Israel-Hamas war, Gantz and Blinken “discussed efforts to augment and accelerate the transit of critical humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” the US readout says.

The two also discussed efforts to secure the release of the hostages, according to the State Department.

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