U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the West Bank next week for diplomatic discussions, an anonymous source told Reuters on Saturday.
The news of Blinken’s travel plans comes after Israel and the Palestinian militant organization Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after over a week of hostilities including rocket fire. Blinken reportedly will try to build on that truce.
The source also mentioned that the secretary will visit Egypt and Jordan. Egypt has served as mediator in negotiating a ceasefire between the two sides, which have both suffered civilian and military casualties.
President Joe Biden voiced his support for a ceasefire during phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, while also affirming the Jewish State’s right to defend itself from indiscriminate rocket attack designed to inflict maximum damage and death.
For over ten days, Hamas launched thousands of rockets toward Israel, the majority of which the Israeli Iron Dome defense system intercepted before they made ground impact. The Israel Defense Forces said nearly 4,000 rockets entered their airspace from Gaza since the fighting broke out.
The State Department said Thursday that Blinken spoke on the phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to also express his support for a ceasefire as well as Egypt’s peace-brokering efforts.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Blinken “will meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians” when he flies to the Middle East next week.
Progressive lawmakers in Congress, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have pushed to cancel an arms sale to Israel, which would provide the state with the mechanism to convert “dumb” bombs into precision-guided munitions. Allied Democrats including Representative Ilhan Omar have expressed pro-Palestinian sentiment and pressured Biden to denounce Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
Biden clarified Friday his administration’s position on Israel. “My party still supports Israel,” he said. “Let’s get something straight here.”
“Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace,” Biden said.
Republican legislators have since called for the U.S. government to help replenish the munitions needed for Israel’s Iron Dome.
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