Dhe US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has praised Israel’s rapprochement with Arab countries but warned that it is “no substitute for peace with the Palestinians”. The US remains committed to the two-state solution, which is the “only way” forward. Anything that runs counter to this harms Israel’s security and, in the long term, its identity, Blinken said in a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday.
Referring to the recent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the foreign minister called on both sides to “take steps to reduce tensions rather than increase them.” He condemned Friday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem, in which a Palestinian shot dead seven civilians, and criticized the fact that people were celebrating the act. At the same time, Blinken opposed acts of revenge on civilians.
After Egypt and before the West Bank, Israel was the second stop on his Middle East trip. It was his first meeting with Netanyahu since he has been prime minister again. The Likud politician’s coalition with far-right parties has raised concerns in the US, but the government in Washington has so far refrained from public criticism. In the press conference, however, Blinken indirectly made it clear what the Biden government thinks of some of the measures planned by the Netanyahu government.
The “strong partnership” between Israel and the US is based on shared values, he said, listing what this includes: “support for core democratic principles and institutions, respect for human rights, equal justice for all, equal rights for minorities, the rule of law, a free press and a robust civil society.” He also stressed the importance of building consensus on key issues. Netanyahu said Israel and the US are “two strong democracies” and will remain so – “I can promise that”.
Blinken met President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Monday morning. He then told journalists that Egypt had taken “important steps”, such as the release of some political prisoners. “The concerns we have remain, however, and in the spirit of openness and in the spirit of our partnership, we have expressed them very clearly,” the foreign minister said.
It is estimated that tens of thousands of people are still being held in Egypt for political reasons. Nevertheless, the country is an important partner of the USA and one of the largest recipients of American military aid, even if some sums have recently been withheld due to human rights violations in Egypt. Blinken also met human rights and democracy activists in Cairo.