US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi yesterday that “Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures with regard to freedom, security, prosperity and democracy.” This came days after Washington declared that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights is a “historical fact.”
Secretary Blinken’s comments on the Palestinians reflect a relative change in the administration of US President Joe Biden compared to the policy of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
US State Department spokesman Nick Price added that the minister and his Israeli counterpart discussed “humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians” which the Biden administration had resumed after the former president had suspended it.
The State Department stated that Blinken affirmed Washington’s “strong” commitment to the security of Israel, and expressed his aspiration to strengthen all aspects of the partnership with Israel, adding that the two ministers discussed security challenges and the normalization of relations between Tel Aviv and the Arab and Muslim-majority countries.
Last year, the former US president helped seal agreements to normalize relations between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Biden has yet to focus heavily on adding more countries to the normalization list. Some Arab countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, want that the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians be resolved before the normalization agreement is agreed upon.
It is noteworthy that the US State Department said last Thursday that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights is a “historical fact” and that Israeli settlement activity “exacerbates tensions and contradicts efforts aimed at promoting a negotiated solution on the basis of two states.”
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last year that he did not consider settlements illegal, and he had previously visited a West Bank settlement in 2020.