Escalation, broader war ‘in no one’s interest,’ says Blinken in Tel Aviv

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Answering a question about Gaza after the war and Palestinian statehood, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says many countries in the region are prepared to invest in Gaza’s reconstruction and security, and in supporting Palestinians and their governance, but that it is essential to them that there be a “clear pathway” to a Palestinian state.

“The view that they’ve expressed is that, critical to ending, once and for all, the cycle of violence that is only going to repeat itself at some point in the future, is through the realization of Palestinian rights. That was a very clear message that I heard everywhere I went.”

He also says he heard “a commitment to take the steps necessary” in order “to give Israel confidence in its security. And that’s something that’s new in recent years and very powerful: which is the willingness, the commitment, of many neighboring countries not only to live with Israel in peace but also genuinely to have a region that is more integrated, in which everyone can feel secure, including Israel.”

There’s a “potentially powerful opportunity” in the future, but it will require hard decisions and hard choices, he says.

Asked about Israel withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, Blinken says “those are their revenues.” The PA “should have them.”

He says the PA needs the money to pay its people, some of whom do essential work in the West Bank. He cites the PA security forces, who he says are trying to keep peace, security and stability in the West Bank — and that’s “profoundly in Israel’s interests.”

In “the future governance of Gaza,” after the conflict, he adds, “of course people need to be paid.”

Answering a question about the possible spread of the conflict, Blinken says that regional allies told him that “escalation is in no one’s interest.”

“No one wants to see more fronts opened in this conflict,” he adds, saying that “countries in the region are using their influence to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“We strongly support the proposition that the Israelis need to know security so that they can return to their homes in northern Israel,” says Blinken.

“Equally, we believe and the government of Israel believes that the diplomatic path is the best way to achieve that security,” he continues.

“If our forces are threatened or attacked we will take appropriate steps, we will respond,” promises Blinken after being asked about attacks on American troops in the region.

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