With far right ascendant in Israel, Blinken tells Abbas US committed to 2 states

PA president demands Washington compel Israel to stop ‘attacks on Palestinians’; US secretary of state says he’s concerned over spiraling violence in West Bank

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, listens during a joint statement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 25, 2021, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
File: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a joint statement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 25, 2021, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Friday, demanding the Biden administration “compel” Israel to stop various attacks against Palestinians.

According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, Blinken and Abbas discussed “joint efforts to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom.”

Price said Blinken “further reaffirmed our commitment to a two-state solution,” a noteworthy statement as Israel, following this past week’s election, looks set to usher in its most right-wing government ever, including far-right elements.

Blinken “underscored his deep concern over the situation in the West Bank, including heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, and emphasized the need for all parties to de-escalate the situation urgently,” Price added.

According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas briefed Blinken on “Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people… including the blockades, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions and settlement construction, in addition to settlers’ violence and violations carried out against the ‘occupied’ city of Jerusalem and its Muslim and Christian holy sites.”

The report said Abbas “reiterated his demand for the US administration to compel the Israeli occupation authorities to stop these crimes committed against the Palestinian people, land and holy sites.”

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the flashpoint city of Hebron in the West Bank, on October 12, 2022. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

The call came as unrest has escalated recently, with the IDF pressing on with an anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank.

The campaign has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 125 Palestinians dead. Many of those were killed while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians.

The IDF’s anti-terror offensive in the West Bank was launched following a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people earlier this year.

An Israeli man was killed in an attack in Hebron last Saturday, another woman was killed in a suspected attack in September, and four soldiers have been killed in the West Bank in attacks and during the arrest operations.

Troops carry out overnight raids in the West Bank, November 3, 2022 (Israel Defense Forces)

Ties between the US and the Palestinian Authority have been strained in recent months. Last month, the White House issued a rare public rebuke of Abbas, after he publicly dismissed US efforts to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indicated that Ramallah prefers that Russia play a more central role as a mediator while sitting alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In remarks in front of reporters ahead of a private meeting with Putin at a conference in Kazakhstan, Abbas said, “We don’t trust America and you know our position. We don’t trust it, we don’t rely on it, and under no circumstances can we accept that America is the sole party in resolving a problem.”

President Joe Biden has been one of the first American leaders to not pursue a peace initiative, deeming the conditions unripe for high-stakes negotiations, given the weakness of the PA in the West Bank and the political instability in Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The stance has gradually frustrated Palestinian officials and that anger seeped through during Abbas’s visit to New York in September to address the United Nations General Assembly.

During a closed meeting with Palestinian Americans on the UN sidelines, Abbas revealed how he scolded Blinken, calling him a “little boy” for failing to use his bully pulpit to coax Israel into making peace.

In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Times of Israel, Abbas can be heard telling the meeting attendees he used to believe US administrations when — he asserted — they told him that Israel does not want peace. However, he now realizes that “it’s not that the Israelis don’t want peace but the Americans don’t want peace.”

In a fiery speech to the General Assembly the next day, Abbas said the US only “pretends to uphold international law and human rights” and lamented the international community’s failure to act to bring about a two-state solution.

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