Antony Blinken in Jerusalem: Urgent steps needed for calm

Image source, EPA-EFE

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for Israel and the Palestinians to take “urgent steps” to restore calm amid escalating violence.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Mr Blinken reiterated US support for a two-state solution as “the best way” to bring security to the two sides.

Israel’s new government opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.

The visit comes after two gun attacks by Palestinians in East Jerusalem at the weekend killed seven Israelis.

At a news conference following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Mr Blinken expressed his condolences for what he called the “horrific terrorist attack”.

The attack by a 21-year-old Palestinian targeted worshippers near a synagogue on Friday night. Hours later a 13-year-old Palestinian opened fire on a group of Israelis, wounding a father and son.

Two Palestinians were also shot dead in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank ahead of Mr Blinken’s arrival.

An 18-year-old armed with a gun was killed by an Israeli security guard near the northern West Bank settlement of Kedumim on Saturday night. On Monday morning troops opened fire on a vehicle which they said drove away after hitting a soldier, killing the 26-year-old driver, in Hebron.

Mr Blinken said the US had “an enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity”, which he said could best be achieved by “realising the vision of two states” – an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Failure to do so, he said, would be “detrimental to Israel’s security and to its long-term identity as a Jewish democratic state”.

“That’s why we’re urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate – we want to make sure there’s an environment in which we can… at some point create the conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Mr Netanyahu did not respond to Mr Blinken’s declaration of support for a two-state solution. His newly formed government comprises parties which resolutely oppose the concept of a Palestinian state and support the expansion of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians claim for a hoped for state of their own.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The Israeli prime minister has vowed to take tough measures in response to the attacks at the weekend. Israeli forces have been bolstered in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the homes of both attackers have been sealed off in preparation for demolition.

The government has also pledged to expand and accelerate the issuing of gun licences to Israeli citizens, as well as to take measures against “the families of terrorists that support terrorism” including removing members’ residency and social security rights.


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