Justin Bullock, FISM News
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the Middle East for the first time since taking office. This visit comes on the heels of the cease fire between Israel and Hamas on Friday that was reported by FISM News. Blinken’s visit was designed to shore up the cease fire and discuss plans to rebuild with leaders in the region.
Blinken met with Israeli leadership and the Palestinian Authority as well as the Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Jordan’s king and head of state, Abdullah II, both of whom were instrumental in negotiating the cease fire. Blinken pledged close to $40 million in new aid for the international effort to rebuild those parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip that were attacked during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. The US has already contributed approximately $360 million to the rebuilding effort. Humanitarian aid to the region is under sharp scrutiny as no one wants to see any of the funds go to Hamas.
Blinken also indicated that a reversal of policy toward the Palestinian Authority and Jordan was in the works. Under President Trump’s administration relations with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan were put on the back burner as the US’s relationship with Israel was more broadly pursued and aggressively prioritized. President Biden’s administration has indicated that they will pursue a more balanced approach to the region. This was immediately seen when the US reopened its consulate in Jerusalem upon Blinken’s visit. The Jerusalem consulate had operated as the de facto embassy for the Palestinian Authority before it was largely closed by former President Trump.
Blinken continued to emphasize Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorist organizations like Hamas as well as hostile nations in the region. After meeting in the West Bank with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken told reporters,
As I told the President, I’m here to underscore the commitment of the United States to rebuilding the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship built on mutual respect and also a shared conviction that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity.
And after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken said,
We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild.