(February 19, 2023 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, ahead of an anticipated showdown at the United Nations Security Council over Jerusalem’s assertion of its rights in Judea and Samaria.
Blinken reaffirmed to both leaders Washington’s “commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability,” according to the State Department. Blinken also “underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm, and [the Biden administration’s] strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions.”
The Secretary of State discussed with Abbas efforts to “improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom,” and with Netanyahu “broader regional challenges, including the threats posed by Iran,” according to the State Dept. He also restated to the Israeli leader the American administration’s “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”
The calls come as the P.A. is seeking a UNSC resolution condemning Israel’s decision last week to authorize nine outposts in Judea and Samaria in response to a deadly terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
A draft resolution obtained by the Associated Press demands an immediate halt to all Israeli building activities across the Green Line, and could be put to a vote as early as Monday.
The Biden administration is reportedly trying to convince Ramallah to forgo a formal resolution, instead proposing the release of a non-binding statement that Washington would support. In this way, the United States would not have to weigh using its veto in the forum.
In a joint announcement Tuesday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy, the British foreign secretary and the U.S. Secretary of State said that they were “deeply troubled” by Israel’s decision to advance “nearly 10,000 settlement units” and its intention “to begin a process to normalize nine outposts that were previously deemed illegal under Israeli law.”
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich vowed earlier on Tuesday to promote unrestrained construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, despite opposition from the Biden administration.
“The real answer to [Palestinian] terror is to continue to build, to continue to set roots in the Land of Israel,” said Smotrich at a meeting of his Religious Zionism Party in Givat Harel, one of the nine outposts the Security Cabinet decided to legalize.
“The American response is entirely understandable,” he continued, but “the [Biden] administration knows that this government is committed to the settlements. There’s nothing wrong with two friends having disputes. They understand, and that’s the way things will continue.”
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