The consulate has long served as an autonomous office responsible for diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. But former President Donald Trump decommissioned his operations and brought them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem. The move infuriated Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the capital of their future state.
Blinken announced the decision on Tuesday after a meeting in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The United States is trying to bolster Abbas in his rivalry with the ruling Hamas militant group in Gaza and internationally.
“As I told the President, I am here to underscore the United States’ commitment to rebuilding relations with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship based on mutual respect and also a shared belief that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equality. measures of security, freedom, expediency and dignity, ”he declared.
Earlier on Tuesday, Blinken vowed to “rally international support” to help Gaza after a devastating war there while keeping assistance out of Hamas’s hands as he began a regional tour to consolidate the ceasefire. -fire of last week.
A truce that went into effect on Friday after the 11-day conflict between the militant group and Israel has been held so far, but it fails to address any of the underlying issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Blinken acknowledged. after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We know that to prevent a return to violence, we must use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges,” said Blinken. “And it starts by addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild.
“The United States will work to rally international support around this effort while also making our own significant contributions. “
He said the United States would work with its partners “to make sure Hamas does not benefit from reconstruction aid.”
Reuters reported that at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed during the 11 days of conflict and more than 1,900 were injured. An Israeli soldier and 12 civilians in Israel were killed, including two children, and hundreds were treated for injuries, according to Israeli officials, Reuters reported.
Blinken said he would not meet with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization.
Blinken addressed the wider conflict, stating that “we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy – to be treated with dignity” .
But the senior US diplomat faces the same obstacles that have stifled a broader peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli leadership, Palestinian divisions and deep-rooted tensions around Jerusalem and its holy sites. The Biden administration had initially hoped to avoid being drawn into the intractable conflict and focus on other foreign policy priorities before violence erupted.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is fighting for his political life after an inconclusive fourth election in two years. He faces growing criticism from the Israelis who say he ended the offensive prematurely, without forcibly stopping the rocket attacks or dealing a harder blow to Hamas.
Netanyahu barely mentioned the Palestinians in his remarks, in which he warned of a “very powerful” response if Hamas breaks the ceasefire.
Netanyahu spoke of “building economic growth” in the occupied West Bank, but said there will be no peace until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state”.
Palestinians have long opposed the language, claiming that it violates the rights of Israel’s own Palestinian minority.
Police clash with demonstrators
The war was sparked by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is part of a holy place in Jerusalem’s Old City revered by Muslims and the Jews. The protests targeted Israel’s maintenance of order in the region during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
The truce remains tenuous because tensions are still high in Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian families has not yet been resolved.
The deportations were suspended just before the fighting began in Gaza, but the judicial process is expected to resume in the coming weeks. Police briefly clashed with protesters in Al-Aqsa on Friday, hours after the ceasefire went into effect. The site has seen several outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence over the years.
Netanyahu is unlikely to make any public concessions on Al-Aqsa or the evictions, as he would be seen as giving in to Hamas’s demands.
Adding to the tension, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian on Monday who they said stabbed and injured two men – an Israeli soldier – in what the forces described as a terrorist attack in East Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, a Palestinian was shot dead by secret Israeli forces near Ramallah, where the PA headquarters are located, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency. Images circulating online appeared to show the man, identified as Ahmed Jamil Fahed, bloodied and lying in the street. The IDF addressed questions to the border police, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Blinken will travel to Ramallah later Tuesday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no power in Gaza and has been sidelined by recent events. Abbas heads the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, which administers part of the occupied West Bank but whose forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas seized power there in 2007.
The narrow coastal territory, home to more than two million Palestinians, has since been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from importing weapons, while Palestinians and human rights groups see it as a form of collective punishment.
Abbas, who annulled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years last month when it emerged his fractured Fatah movement would be defeated, is seen by many Palestinians as having lost all legitimacy. A crowd of Al-Aqsa worshipers chanted Friday against his Palestinian Authority and in support of Hamas.
But Abbas is still viewed internationally as the representative of the Palestinian people and a key partner in the long-lost peace process.
Blinken will also travel to neighboring Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago and acted as mediators in the conflict. Egypt succeeded in negotiating the Gaza truce after the Biden administration urged Israel to end its offensive.
The administration had been heavily criticized for its apparent initial response to the murderous violence, including from Democratic allies in Congress who demanded it take a tougher line on Israel. Biden has repeatedly asserted what he said is Israel’s right to defend against rocket attacks from Gaza.
The administration defended its response by saying it had engaged in intense but silent high-level diplomacy to support a ceasefire.
Blinken said the time was not right for an immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but steps could be taken to repair the damage caused by the Israeli airstrikes, which destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged infrastructure. in Gaza.