Blinken says restoring calm is ‘immediate task,’ cites concerns over ‘current trajectory’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, January 31, 2023. (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, January 31, 2023. (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In a press conference at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, concluding his visit here, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says restoring calm is “the immediate task,” but that Washington would keep working toward a two-state solution.

“The United States,” he says, “will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach — including but not limited to settlement expansion, legalization of illegal outposts, moves toward annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement and acquiescence to violence.”

“All sides must take steps to prevent further escalation of violence and restore calm,” Blinken says.

“I heard a deep concern about the current trajectory,” the top US diplomat says about his meetings in Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank.

“I reaffirmed to Israel and its people our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” he adds.

Turning to Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirms the US commitment to working with Israel to counter the threat from Tehran. But he quickly turns to Israel’s policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, saying the deepening ties between Iran and Moscow and the weaponry the Islamic Republic provides show “the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs — humanitarian, economic and security.”

In response to a question on Israeli democracy in the context of the government’s planned judicial overhaul, Blinken repeats much of what he said yesterday alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu, highlighting core principles of democracy including “respect for human rights, equal justice under the law, equal rights for all, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society.”

“To be sure,” Blinken says, “Israel has a very robust civil society.”

“With regard to the proposed reforms, there’s clearly a very vibrant debate that’s going on, a discussion that’s going on in Israel. And these debates are a very healthy part of a vibrant democracy. In fact, they’re unique to democracies.”

“And as democracies, one of the things that we recognize is that building consensus on new proposals is the best way to make sure not only that they’re embraced but that they actually endure,” he adds, regarding the proposed judicial shakeup. “All of this of course is for Israelis themselves to work out.”

“But we look forward generally speaking to working with Israel to advance the interests and values that have been at the heart of this relationship, as I’ve said, for 75 years.”

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