After a weekend of attacks in Jerusalem, Antony Blinken is expected there for two days

Ariane Menage with AFP
07:56, January 30, 2023modified to

08:29, January 30, 2023

The head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken began Sunday in Cairo a tour of the Middle East in the midst of an outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence, with the slim hope of using the influence of the United States to try to ease tensions . Before traveling to Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, Blinken will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and his Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Monday.

Outbreak of violence

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to dominate the discussions between the two allies, Egypt historically playing an intermediary role between the two protagonists. This trip, planned for a long time, comes in the midst of an Israeli-Palestinian escalation. On Friday, a Palestinian man shot and killed seven people in East Jerusalem before being shot dead. On Saturday, a Palestinian shot and wounded two Israelis also in East Jerusalem, the eastern part occupied by Israel. On Sunday, Israeli guards killed a Palestinian in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel.

Also Friday, the Israeli army bombarded the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from this enclave which it maintains under blockade. This new outbreak was exacerbated by the deadliest Israeli raid in years on Thursday in Jenin, in the West Bank, in which nine Palestinians were killed.

“No change”

Washington condemns ‘appalling’ attack in East Jerusalem, Blinken to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to ‘take urgent steps towards de-escalation’, State Department says . If in private American officials do not hide their frustration with the escalation, the Secretary of State’s room for maneuver seems limited.

Experts interviewed by AFP do not expect significant breakthroughs, the United States will probably be content to hammer home their support for the two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian. “The best they can get is for things to stabilize in order to avoid a repeat of May 2021”, the last war between Israel and the Palestinian armed groups, assures Aaron David Miller, expert at the Carnegie Foundation for the Washington international peace.

For Ghaith Al-Omari, an expert from the Washington Institute, “this visit does not signal any change in the American position with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” but “the conversation (with Mahmoud Abbas) is not going to be pleasant”.

Waterfall tours

Mr. Blinken’s visit to Israel reflects Washington’s desire to reconnect with Mr. Netanyahu, head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. It comes after that of the National Security Advisor of the White House, Jake Sullivan. “I have never seen so many visits at such a high level under any administration,” said Aaron David Miller. “It’s a bit like flooding the area,” adds another expert, David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute, while CIA director William Burns recently visited the region, including Cairo.

In Israel, Mr. Blinken will insist on “the importance of maintaining the historic status quo” on the esplanade of the Mosques in East Jerusalem, a hotbed of tension between Israelis and Palestinians. This site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest in Judaism. The Abraham Accords, a process of normalization between Israel and several Arab countries, should also be on the menu of discussions, Mr. Netanyahu cherishing the hope of rallying Saudi Arabia to it.

In Cairo on Sunday, Mr. Blinken made no reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He only told youth representatives at the American University in Cairo that he was visiting Israel and the West Bank. “It is important for us to discuss not only government to government but also with all segments of society and especially the rising generation,” he said.

Egypt, one of the main beneficiaries of American military aid, is regularly singled out, particularly by the United States, for its human rights record, deemed “catastrophic” by NGOs.

Source: Europe1

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