A very confidential meeting, the one between the Israeli war cabinet and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, from which few common points seem to emerge. In his fourth mission to Tel Aviv since October 7, Blinken once again put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate the conflict with Hamas. The death toll in the Gaza Strip, particularly among civilians and children, “is too high,” the Biden administration envoy warned.
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The US request to de-escalate the conflict
While reiterating its full support for Israel and stating that the accusation of genocide leveled against the Jewish State in The Hague is “unfounded”, it is increasingly difficult for the USA to find a regional balance that is acceptable for the Arab countries – and for the public opinions – if Israel is not preparing to open a phase of less intensity (i.e. with fewer civilian deaths) of the war.
From Netanyahu, Blinken obtained that a UN delegation visit northern Gaza to assess the situation on the ground, particularly humanitarian. And to carry out “an assessment” in view of the return of displaced people to their homes. Netanyahu, “in exchange”, achieves the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into the rapes of 7 October.
But otherwise, the tone does not seem to favor a real conciliation of positions. The US secretary underlined that the violence of the Israeli settlers “makes everything harder, not easier”, and that “the children of Gaza are paying too high a price”.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, controversial minister of the far right, responded to him indirectly with a phrase from Roosevelt: “This is not the time to tone it down, it’s just the time to carry a big stick around.”
On de-escalation, even the words of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant do not bode well. The operations in Khan Yunis (in southern Gaza) “will intensify and continue until the Hamas leaders are reached and the hostages recovered” .
The puzzle of the “Palestinian State” and the summit with Abu Mazen
In the American idea, “lasting peace” cannot ignore the birth of a Palestinian state. Many of the Arab countries visited by Blinken during his diplomatic tour are asking for this. Primarily Saudi Arabia, which has dusted off the old 2002 peace plan.
Thus the normalization of relations between all Arab countries with Israel in exchange for one Palestinian state. On this, however, Netanyahu’s commitment certainly does not appear to be a priority.
Meanwhile, a new summit opened yesterday, January 10, in Aqaba, in the south of Jordan, in which the Jordanian King Abdallah, the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Abu Mazen will participate.
The talks constitute “part of Jordanian efforts to coordinate positions and push for an immediate ceasefire and the uninterrupted provision of humanitarian aid.”
But in Ramallah (Jordan) hundreds of Palestinians protested against the US secretary’s visit. “Blinken, you are not welcome here,” read the protesters’ signs, which showed drawings of red triangles under Blinken’s name. Like those used in Hamas propaganda videos of attacks on Israeli soldiers.
Israel: “UN employees participated in the October 7 massacre”
Meanwhile, Israel lashes out against the United Nations agency UNRWA. Thus stating that its employees have “operated with Hamas in ”terrorist activities”, also participating “in the October 7 massacres”.
This was stated by the military radio, citing information received to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.
Very serious accusations that arrive just after Blinken’s request for more humanitarian aid, which would also come from UNRWA structures.