Netanyahu is Forewarned by Blinken about Annexing the Occupied West Bank

Blinken, a US diplomat, declared that he would oppose settlements but refrained from making any remarks against Netanyahu's far-right administration.

As former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to take back office, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vowed to resist Israeli settlements or annexation in the occupied West Bank.
Normalization between Israel and its neighbors is not a replacement for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. [File: Stefani Reynolds/Reuters]

As former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to take back office, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vowed to resist Israeli settlements or annexation in the occupied West Bank.

After his right-wing coalition won the elections on November 1, Netanyahu formed a government with extreme-right and pro-settlers groups, including Religious Zionism.

Palestinians worry that under Netanyahu, who oversaw a record-breaking construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem during his 12-year tenure as prime minister up to 2021.

Settlements are viewed as a barrier to the establishment of a future Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution and are unlawful under international law.

The new coalition has given religious Zionism a position to manage settlements in the occupied West Bank, which promotes settlement growth and opposes Palestinian statehood.

Blinken congratulated the seasoned Israeli leader, who has clashed with prior Democratic administrations in Washington, while speaking to J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel advocacy group in the United States, on Sunday.

Blinken remarked, "We will evaluate the government by the policies it promotes rather than by particular individuals.

But he said that the administration of President Joe Biden would fight "relentlessly" to maintain a "horizon of hope," however remote, for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Additionally, Blinken stated, "We will continue to vehemently oppose any actions that threaten the viability of a two-state solution, including but not limited to settlement growth, efforts to annex the West Bank, disruption of the historic order of holy sites, evictions, and demolitions, and incitement to violence."

The Biden administration, according to him, will uphold "fundamental democratic ideals, including respect for LGBTQ people's rights and the equal administration of justice for all Israeli residents," he stated.

Noam, whose leader Avi Maoz is vehemently opposed to LGBTQ rights, will be among the far-right parties in Netanyahu's government.

The far-right Jewish Power party, Netanyahu's second coalition partner, is also in favor of settler growth. Its leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was previously best known as a far-right religious provocateur who harbored anti-Palestinian sentiments on the fringe.

In 2007, Ben-Gvir was found guilty of supporting terrorism, inciting racism against Palestinians, and engaging in anti-LGBT activities.

He claims that he is now solely in favor of expelling those Palestinians who he views as "traitors" or "terrorists," rather than all of them. Ben-Gvir held a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers at a Hebron mosque in 1994, in his living room up until a few years ago.

J Street's president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, told reporters that the State Department had "solid reasons" to declare Ben-Gvir persona non grata and that the US government should think about avoiding interacting with other officials with polarizing backgrounds.

No alternative to Peace

Israel held its fifth election on November 1 after less than four years, and it did so following the dissolution of Lapid's varied coalition, which aimed to defeat the scandal-plagued Netanyahu.

Any new Israeli move to take control of the occupied West Bank could violate commitments Netanyahu made to the United Arab Emirates in 2020, the first Arab nation to recognize Israel in decades.

The so-called Abraham Accords was lauded as a significant accomplishment by both Netanyahu and the administration of Donald Trump, then-US President.

The discussion of relations with Israel, whose trade with the UAE has significantly increased over the previous two years, was swiftly followed by three other Arab countries.

Blinken stated, "For all of its benefits, normalization between Israel and its neighbors is not a substitute for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians," to some of the loudest cheers from J Street.

I am aware that many people are frustrated and disillusioned, Blinken stated.

Since we began attempting to achieve a two-state solution decades ago, it appears that we have simply drifted further from our objective, he remarked.

However, he issued a warning not to "succumb to cynicism" and to continue promoting peace.

Since the Barack Obama administration, the US has not made a substantial diplomatic effort to mediate a two-state solution, and officials in the Biden administration are secretly doubtful that they can reach any accord with Netanyahu.


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