Blinken puts more focus on Palestinians, security in call to Ashkenazi

Later on Friday, President Joe Biden announced that the US would be lifting its sanctions on the International Criminal Court, which were announced during the Trump administration.

ANTONY J. BLINKEN speaks during his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.  (photo credit: GRAEME JENNINGS/POOL VIA REUTERS)
ANTONY J. BLINKEN speaks during his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke in support of Palestinian rights during a Friday call with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
“The Secretary emphasized the Administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,” the State Department said in a statement describing the call.
It was part of a series of comments the Biden administration has made which show a markedly different stance from that of the former Trump administration, during whose tenure ties were severed with the Palestinian Authority and funding to the Palestinians was eliminated.
The US has recently began to restore financial assistance to the Palestinian people with the US announcing last month that it would provide $15 million. Last week the Associated Press reported that Congress had been notified that the Palestinians would also receive an additional $75m.
Under the Obama administration US assistance to the Palestinians had amounted to half-a-billion annually including its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
According to the State Department the two men also discussed humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians during their Friday call.
On Thursday, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price had also spoken out against Israeli settlement activity when pressed by reporters.
The Trump administration had stopped issuing such statements. US President Joe Biden’s administration in contrast has revived them while carefully adding in statements against Palestinian incitement and terrorism.
“We believe when it comes to settlement activity that Israel should refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.
“That includes the annexation of territory. That includes settlement activity,” Price said.
“We’ve been equally clear when it comes to the potential actions of the Palestinians, whether that is incitement to violence, providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism. That, too, moves us further away from a two-state solution. Our goal in all of this is to advance the prospects for that two-state solution.”
The Biden administration has also reintroduced the word “occupied” to describe the West Bank, a term which the Trump administration had dropped.
“Do we think that the West Bank is occupied? Yes,” Price said.
He also spoke in support of a two-state resolution to the conflict. “The two-state solution is precisely what will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in dignity and security, securing the interests – in the interests of Israelis, in the interests of Palestinians together. That’s precisely why we are supporting this two-state solution, just as previous administrations of both political stripes have.”
Price also referenced the normalization deals between Israel and four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — which the Trump administration brokered under the rubric of the Abraham Accords.
The Biden administration has supported those deals, although unless pressed, they do not use the term Abraham Accords. The deals came up in the conversation between Blinken and Ashkenazi.
Separately Blinken also spoke Friday with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani on Friday about the normalization deal with Israel.
Blinken tweeted that the two had discussed “Bahrain’s historic opening with Israel, advancing our Strategic Dialogue, elevating human rights, and safeguarding regional security. These initiatives will help us further regional peace and prosperity.”