Blinken says U.S. will back new Israeli government, but with limitations

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that he and the Biden administration support the new government of Israel, but he stopped short of a full-fledged commitment to allow America’s closest ally in the Middle East to have free reign. 

Speaking at the J Street National Conference in Washington, D.C., Blinken attempted to walk the delicate stretch of land between being too kind or critical of an incoming Israeli government that is decidedly leaning to the right. 

Blinken was generally kind in his remarks, welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu back for his third term atop the Israeli government and avoiding direct comment about the farther right members of the prime minister’s cabinet. 

“[We] expect the new Israeli government to continue to work with us to advance our shared values, just as we have previous governments,” Blinken said. “We’ll continue to express our support for core democratic principles, including respect for the rights of the LGBT community and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel. 

“We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities. We will hold it to the mutual standards we have established in our relationship over the past seven decades. And we will speak honestly and respectfully with our Israeli friends, as partners always should.”

The “straight talk” approach began immediately with Blinken warning Israel against any action that could be taken as an Israeli incursion into Palestinian lands.

“We’re deeply concerned that this year has seen dramatically higher levels of violence in the West Bank, perpetrated by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers,” Blinken said. 

“We will also continue to unequivocally oppose any acts that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution, including, but not limited to, settlement expansion; moves toward annexation of the West Bank; disruption to the historic status quo at holy sites; demolitions and evictions; and incitement to violence.”

The remarks reiterate the Biden administration’s support of a two-state solution that advocates for an independent Palestinian state sitting alongside the existing state of Israel based on lines agreed upon in 1967, saying “it’s vital to preserving Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Blinken, for all of his talk about openness and honesty, was nonetheless passive in certain parts of his speech. For example, his call for equal rights for LGBT individuals and racial justice was a veiled message to, or at least about, certain members of the coalition government. 

Avi Maoz, leader of the Moaz party, is a person who vehemently opposes LGBT rights. Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, two other rising members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, have expressed anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab views. 

J Street is a group with a stated mission of organizing “pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans to promote U.S. policies that embody our deeply held Jewish and democratic values and that help secure the State of Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”