WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming J Street National Conference, the progressive group announced on Thursday.
The four-day conference will run from Saturday through Tuesday under the slogan “living our values, defending democracy,” and Blinken, slotted to speak on Sunday morning, is the most senior administration official announced.
“At a critical time for Israelis and Palestinians and for the future of liberal democracy in the region and around the world, our movement is looking forward to hearing about these challenges from our nation’s top diplomat.”Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street president and founder
“We are deeply honored and excited that Secretary Blinken will be addressing this year’s J Street conference,” said J Street president and founder Jeremy Ben-Ami. “At a critical time for Israelis and Palestinians and for the future of liberal democracy in the region and around the world, our movement is looking forward to hearing about these challenges from our nation’s top diplomat.”
West Bank tensions high
Blinken’s speech comes amid escalating tensions in the West Bank. Earlier on Wednesday, the newly appointed special representative for Palestinian affairs at the State Department, Hady Amr, addressed the situation in a press briefing. “We are closely tracking every reported incident every day, and we are deeply aware of the tragic loss of life that we are seeing in the territories.”
Amr avoided giving a definitive answer about the incoming Israeli government. “In terms of the new Israeli government, I'm not going to speculate on its composition and how it's going to engage. It's up to the parties on the ground to take the steps needed to de-escalate the situation.”
He also noted that the US “remains committed to reopening our consulate general in Jerusalem.”
“I continue to believe that reopening the consulate [puts] the US in the best position to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people,” he said. “We're going to continue to discuss the timeline for reopening our consulate general with our Israeli and Palestinian partners.”
Amr, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, was elevated last week to his current role, a move that is seen as an upgrade to the relationship between the US and the Palestinian Authority. Until now, there has been no designated representative for Palestinian affairs within the State Department.