Blinken heads to Israel to talk with Bennett about halting Russia's war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and President Isaac Herzog.

 U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacts after posing for a group picture during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the G7 Nations at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany February 19, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/INA FASSBENDER)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacts after posing for a group picture during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the G7 Nations at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany February 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/INA FASSBENDER)

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about Israel's mediation efforts to end Russia's war against Ukraine when he visits the Jewish state starting Saturday as part of his Middle East trip that will include stops in Morocco and Algeria.

"We will be discussing Israel's efforts" to negotiate between Russia and Ukraine, US Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert told reporters on Thursday, adding that "we appreciate Israel's role."

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin two days after the start of the war and has spoken separately by phone both with him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky and Ukrainian officials have praised his efforts and spoken of Jerusalem as a possible venue for a summit with Russia. 

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting in Riga, Latvia, on March 7, 2022 (credit: EDITS PALENS) Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting in Riga, Latvia, on March 7, 2022 (credit: EDITS PALENS)

It is Blinken's second trip to Israel since taking office last year and his first to Morocco and Algeria. Blinken is expected to meet with Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog. 

“During the course of his trip, the Secretary will emphasize to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of Kremlin’s aggression,” the State Department said. “We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to impose further costs on Putin and his enablers if Putin does not change course.”

Other topics under discussion will include the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Abraham Accords, and the importance of a two-state resolution to the conflict.

Blinken arrives in Israel at a critical time with Russia's invasion of Ukraine entering its second month with no end in sight and the possible imminent revival of the 2015 Iran deal, an agreement which Israel opposes.

His visit takes place amid concern of an outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence next month when the Jewish Passover festival overlaps with the Muslim Ramadan holiday.  

When in Israel Blinken will underscore the unwavering US commitment to Israel’s security, engage on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and discuss regional and global challenges with his counterparts in the Israeli government,” a State Department representative said in a statement.

Lempert said Blinken would also express his disapproval of Israeli demolitions of illegal Palestinian structures in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

She said the issue of reopening America's Jerusalem Consulate General which had served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians, until former US president Donald Trump closed it in 2019. President Joe Biden has promised the Palestinians that he will reopen the consulate but has yet to make good on that pledge.

Blinken will visit the West Bank and meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah “as well as with representatives of Palestinian civil society. “In these meetings, the Secretary will emphasize the importance of strengthening US-Palestinian relations, and advancing freedom, security, and prosperity for the Palestinian people,” the statement reads.

Later, Blinken will travel to Rabat, Morocco, to meet with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and other senior government officials “to exchange views on regional issues and bilateral cooperation, as well as advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Price.

While in Rabat, Secretary Blinken will also meet UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss regional security and international developments, the State Department said.

His last stop will be Algiers, Algeria where he is expected to meet with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra to discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation, advancing human rights, and fundamental freedoms, and other areas of mutual concern.”