Blinken Meets Palestinian Leader Abbas in Occupied West Bank

Ronaldo Schemidt/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as they meet in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 31, 2023.

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday, after pressing Israel’s leaders to offer a pathway to a Palestinian state.

Blinken crossed Israeli checkpoints to reach the de facto Palestinian capital Ramallah, according to pool reporters who travelled with the U.S. top diplomat.

The visit came a day after talks on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet over Israel’s war with Hamas, regional tensions and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Blinken would discuss with Abbas the PA’s responsibility to reform itself and improve its governance, he said in a news conference on Tuesday evening, reflecting Washington’s view that Abbas, 88, needs to overhaul the organization in preparation to govern a post-war Gaza.

The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in some areas of the occupied West Bank, remains the best hope for a unified Palestinian government of both Gaza and the West Bank.

Blinken came to Israel after visiting Washington’s Arab allies, who he said want closer relations with Israel but only if that included a “practical pathway” to a Palestinian state.

U.S.-brokered talks on a Palestinian state in territory now occupied by Israel collapsed almost a decade ago. Right-wing leaders in Israel’s current ruling coalition oppose Palestinian statehood.

At his news conference, Blinken declined to characterize how Netanyahu and his cabinet responded to his appeal on a Palestinian state. He said Israel would have to make “hard decisions, hard choices” to take advantage of the opportunity offered by regional integration.

“Extremist settler violence carried out with impunity, settlement expansion, demolitions, evictions, all make it harder, not easier for Israel to achieve lasting peace and security,” he said, alluding to conflict in the West Bank.