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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met today in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he urged to “build on the truce” between Israel and Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip to “avoid a return to violence.”
“We know that to avoid a return to violence we have to use the space created to address a long list of underlying problems and challenges,” Blinken said during a press conference alongside Netanyahu following their meeting.
While reiterating the U.S. commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself, the secretary of state placed special emphasis on the need to promote the development of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which he said faces a dire humanitarian situation.
“The United States will work to enlist international support (to rebuild Gaza), in addition to making our own contribution,” he said, making clear that they will ensure that the Hamas terrorist movement, which controls the Strip, does not benefit from this assistance.
“We believe that Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live safely to enjoy the same measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity,” added Blinken, who stressed the need to generate opportunities for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to “foster an environment of greater stability.”
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Netanyahu thanked the American diplomatic support during the recent escalation of violence with the Gaza militias and reiterated his threat that if they violate the current truce, which ended on Friday with 11 days of escalation, the Israeli response will be “very strong”.
In addition, he referred to the negotiations in Vienna to save the nuclear deal with Iran, to which he said he hopes the United States will not return as this would “facilitate Iran’s path to a nuclear weapons arsenal.”
“Whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to its destruction and committed to obtaining weapons of mass destruction to that end,” he warned.
On this issue, Blinken in Israel said he is “consulting” during negotiations on a potential return to the agreement, “while working together to counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.”
Blinken in Israel met with the defense minister and will meet with Abbas in Ramallah
Following the meeting with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State is scheduled to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Beny Gantz before departing for Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to meet with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister, Mohamad Shtayeh.
In the coming days, Blinken will continue his visit to the Middle East with a trip to Cairo, where he will meet with Egyptian President Abdelfatah al Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, before traveling to Amman, where he is scheduled to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.