U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for “tangible steps” towards the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip during a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday.
Sources cited by Sky News Arabia described the tête-à-tête, during which Blinken also touched on “administrative reforms” in the P.A. that Washington would like to see, as “tense” and marked by “arguments.”
Abbas reportedly demanded that Blinken push Israel to unconditionally release all tax revenue it collects on Ramallah’s behalf.
“If you do not have the ability to release funds, how will you have the ability to put pressure on Israel and achieve peace and a Palestinian state?” Sky News Arabia quoted Abbas as telling Blinken.
Following Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, Israel’s Security Cabinet voted to withhold approximately $100 million in P.A. funds earmarked for Hamas-controlled Gaza, in addition to monies equal to the hundreds of millions the P.A. pays in stipends to convicted Palestinian terrorists and their relatives each month.
The P.A. subsequently threatened to refuse all funds collected by Israel, and in late October, Blinken told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee that the Biden administration asked Israel to release the Gaza funds.
Under a U.S.-brokered agreement between Israel and the P.A. last month, Israel agreed to transfer some of the tax money after it had checked the names of the recipients of P.A. salaries on a list Ramallah would provide.
According to the P.A.’s official Wafa news agency, Abbas on Wednesday highlighted “the need to release Palestinian clearance funds immediately, because their withholding violates agreements and international law,” adding that “the Gaza Strip has priority and … will not be abandoned.”
Abbas also stressed to Blinken “the need to immediately stop the war of extermination against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, so that the political solution based on international legitimacy can be implemented.”
The P.A. chief demanded that the Palestinian Authority be granted “full membership in the United Nations by a decision of the Security Council,” Wafa reported.
A State Department readout said Blinken “had a productive discussion with President Abbas about administrative reforms, which, if implemented, would benefit the Palestinian people.
“The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States supports tangible steps towards the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with both living in peace and security,” concluded the readout.
On Nov. 8, Blinken declared that Gaza must be handed over to the P.A. after the war there. The solution “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the P.A.,” Blinken stated.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has insisted that Washington seeks to back an authority that “has the support of all Palestinians so that they can effectively help with post-conflict governance, particularly in Gaza.”
At the same time, the State Department has refused to rule out Hamas retaining power or joining a P.A.-led governing body.
According to a survey released late last year, 89% of Palestinians support establishing a government that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor an authority controlled exclusively by Abbas’s Fatah faction.
On Wednesday afternoon, P.A. security forces in Ramallah clamped down on a demonstration against Blinken’s visit. In video footage shared on social media, protesters could be heard chanting for Palestinians to “shoot a Jew or give [their weapon] to Hamas.”
Blinken touched down in Israel on Monday as part of a regional diplomatic swing in an effort by the Biden administration to prevent a wider conflict some three months after an estimated 3,000 Hamas terrorists invaded the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7, murdering some 1,200 persons, mostly civilians.
During his visit, Blinken pushed Israeli officials to move to a less intensive, more targeted stage of the war against Hamas. He also suggested that Palestinians displaced to the south of the Gaza Strip be allowed back to the northern part.