US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the expansion of Israeli settlements and ongoing demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank are taking Israel further away from peace with the Palestinians.
Yet, he stressed that the US-Israel relationship remains “ironclad,” lauded American security commitments to the Jewish state and said the Biden administration will continue to promote normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly with Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, he made clear the administration’s displeasure with actions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has taken in expanding Jewish settlements and increasing Palestinian home demolitions.
“Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope we seek,” Blinken says in a speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.
“Likewise, any move toward annexation of the West Bank, de facto or de jure, disruption of the historic status quo at the holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes and the evictions of families that have lived in their homes for generations damage prospects for two states,” he says.
Improving Israeli-Arab relations cannot replace a two-state solution with the Palestinians, he says.
“Integration and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians, and they should not come at its expense,” Blinken says.
“Israel’s deepened relationships with its partners can and should advance the well-being of the Palestinian people and the prospects of a two-state solution,” he adds.