U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued statements welcoming their counterparts in the new Israeli government.
Many Republican senators are showing concern over changes the Biden administration is making to Middle East policies, particularly when it comes to Israel. In a letter to the President this week, lawmakers led by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) urge Biden to firmly stand with Israel.
Lankford told CBN News when it comes to U.S. support for Israel, the Biden administration is sending mixed messages and he argues we need to reaffirm our commitment rather than distancing ourselves.
"We stand with Israel. They're an ally, and America is opposed to terrorism," said Lankford.
One concern, in particular, is the Biden administration's decision to reopen a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem.
"That's an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a recent press conference announcing the plan.
Lankford, however, argues opening the embassy in Jerusalem sends the wrong message and would reaffirm a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.
"Our embassy is in Jerusalem, that's the focus there. Obviously, the Jewish state - their main headquarters, their Knesset, all their leadership offices are in Jerusalem, that should be a focus. So I have a real concern that sends a mixed message from the United States," the Oklahoma senator explained.
The Biden administration also has plans to reopen a Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington, D.C.
"The flip of that is I've also worked very hard to allow Americans to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable in American courts," explained Lankford. "The connection there is if they base any of the Palestinian efforts here in the United States and have a headquarters here in the United States, American families are able to sue Palestinians for damages and for loss for the acts of terrorism that have been carried out against some of these families."
"The Biden administration is trying to find a way around that and to allow the Palestinians to base a headquarters in the United States without also honoring American victims of terrorism at the same time," he continued. "We pushed on both areas to say the Americans should not give a mixed message to the Palestinians or the Israelis about our alliance with the Israelis, and we definitely shouldn't send a mixed message to American families that are victims of terrorism that they're not going to be able to get their day in court."
Secretary Blinken also recently announced $30 million in U.S. tax dollars will go towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
"I do not believe we should've restored the funding to the U.N. organization that handles refugees," argued Lankford. "They handle refugees in the Palestinian areas different than they handle refugees anywhere else in the world."
"Every other refugee area in the world, when refugees move from one country to another, the U.N. helps integrate them into the new society so they don't live their whole lives as refugees and they're able to become citizens and they move into other places across the world except for the Palestinians," said Lankford. "The U.N. will not allow them to be able to integrate into other areas because the theory is that they're going to move back to Israel and take over Israel in the future. That's absurd."
Even Blinken recently acknowledged the U.N. group spreads anti-Semitic education materials erasing Israel from maps.
"We need to make sure the schools are not teaching hatred and bigotry to the next generation," declared Lankford.
The Biden administration, however, insists its support for Israel is strong.
"Our stalwart support, our ironclad support for Israel will remain," declared State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
While some Democrats recently questioned U.S. funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system, Price says the Biden administration remains committed to it.
"It is an indispensable tool for the safety and security of Israelis," Price said. "Again, we are talking about equal measures of safety and security for Israelis and Palestinians, and on the Israeli side, the Iron Dome is an important element of that equation."
The Biden administration is laying the groundwork for a renewed push to encourage more Arab countries to sign accords with Israel and working to strengthen existing deals after last month's devastating war in the Gaza Strip interrupted those diplomatic efforts.
The embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords is a rare carryover of a signature Trump administration policy by President Joe Biden and other Democrats.
The Trump administration put U.S. clout and incentives into landing the country-by-country pacts by four Arab states last year, easing enmity and isolation for the Jewish state in the Middle East that had dated back to Israel's 1948 founding. The Biden administration saw significant prospects of several other Arab governments signing accords soothing and normalizing relations with Israel. U.S. officials have declined to publicly identify the countries they regard as promising prospects.
Sudan, which signed a general declaration of peaceful intent but has not yet signed on to diplomatic relations with Israel, had been a prospect. Oman, which has a policy of non-interference that allows it to be a broker across the Middle East’s fault lines, long has been seen by Westerners as a likely contender.
But the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas militant rulers last month has complicated U.S.-backed diplomacy for new Abraham accords.
The fighting “has strengthened the conviction of opponents of normalization” with Israel, activist Doura Gambo said in Sudan. Sudanese were already divided over their government’s agreement last year to become one of the four Arab states signing accords. In Sudan’s case, the Trump administration offered financial relief from U.S. sanctions.
Last month's bloodshed, which killed 254 Palestinians — including 66 children and at least 22 members of one family — resonated deeply with the Arab public, including in the other countries that had signed accords with Israel: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Thirteen people died in Israel, including two children and one soldier.
The Biden administration is considering appointing a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, to a Mideast role that would marshal and potentially expand the country-by-country accords between Israel and Mideast governments.
Two people familiar with the matter confirmed Shapiro was being considered for the job, as first reported by The Washington Post. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
U.S. officials also are working to encourage more business, education and other ties among the four Arab states and Israel. They hope visible success there will also promote the bilateral accords in the region, at the same time the U.S. works to advance resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Last year, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country in over two decades to establish ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively. It was a move that bypassed the Palestinians, who saw it as betrayal.
The Abraham Accords include a general declaration of support for peaceful relations in the Middle East among Jews, Muslims and Christians, all followers of religions linked to the patriarch Abraham. The Trump administration saw the accords partly as paving a path toward full ties with Israel, including in security and intelligence cooperation to counter common rivals, such as Iran.
The deals former President Donald Trump struck were “an important achievement, one that not only we support, but one we’d like to build on,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week.
In addition, “we’re looking at countries that may want to join in and, and take part and begin to normalize their own relations with Israel. That, too, has been very much part of conversations I’ve had with, with several of my counterparts,” Blinken added.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stressed Washington's role in tackling many global challenges, most importantly- dealing with Russian cyberattacks and bringing Iran back to the negotiating table in regards to its nuclear portfolio.
Blinken said, during a discussion in the Foreign Affairs Committee that discussed the US State Department's budget for 2022, that Iran is still developing its nuclear program, and that there is no cooperation from the Iranian side so far to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
He stressed that the nuclear deal with Iran would only take place under American and European conditions.
Some members of Congress have spoken out against the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be hosted by China, due to ongoing human rights violations.
Blinken said the Foreign Ministry sees what is happening to Uighur Muslims, and other ethnic minorities in China, as genocide.
He added that Washington is consulting with several European allies to make a joint decision on participation in the Winter Olympics.
Blinken has confirmed that the Foreign Ministry is currently launching an arms deal harmful to Saudi Arabia to try and end the war in Yemen and establish democracy in the region.
The Congress session also referred to the Palestinian Hamas movement, with Blinken emphasizing that it is a "terrorist movement, and no state should deal with it." According to him, Washington stands by Israel's right to defend itself.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said this morning (Thursday) that the U.S. will work with any government that will come to power in Israel.
"President Biden has worked with all Israeli governments since the days of Golda Meir", said the Secretary of State.
"In democracy", added Blinken, "governments change. We will work with any government that forms, whether under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or under anyone else".
🇮🇱 IF YOU LOVE ISRAEL - SHARE NEWSRAEL! 🇮🇱
17 Democratic Senators have written to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to press Israel to allow into the Gaza Strip materials needed for reconstruction and humanitarian aid, Barak Ravid of Axios reported on Tuesday. The effort is led by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
The US, Egypt, Qatar and others have committed to rebuilding Gaza as well as providing humanitarian aid but Israel is threatening to hold up that process.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday he had a lengthy discussion with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about Cairo's human rights record.
Speaking to reporters in Amman after a flight from Cairo, Blinken also said he raised with Sisi the issue of Americans who have been detained in Egypt.
Jordan's King Abdullah told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday he welcomed the administration's move to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, state-owned media said.
Blinken however said a bit of time would be needed to carry out the move, which he announced on Tuesday during his maiden Middle East trip to consolidate a ceasefire that ended the worst fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The Jerusalem consulate had served as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians until former President Donald Trump shuttered it in 2019.
Blinken was also quoted as saying that the Jordanian monarch, whose Hashemite dynasty has custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, had played an instrumental role in brokering the deal to end fighting.
He further said that aid had started to arrive in the Gaza Strip as part of a drive to help reconstruction in devastated areas of the enclave, ruled by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Yamina MK Matan Kahana replied to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's references to the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood, contested by Palestinian Arabs.
"Mr. Blinken, Shimon HaTzaddik - which you referred to as Sheikh Jarrah - has been Jewish-owned property since 1876. All our courts have ruled in favor of our presence there. The Jewish people are not an occupying power in our homeland," he said.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid met on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I met this evening with Secretary Blinken and thanked him for his and President Biden’s support for Israel. We discussed regional challenges and the importance of the special relationship between Israel and the United States,” Lapid tweeted.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on a Middle East mission on Tuesday that Washington would provide new aid to help rebuild Gaza as part of efforts to bolster a ceasefire between its Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel.
Hoping to reverse a move taken by former President Donald Trump that angered Palestinians, Blinken said the United States would advance the process of reopening its Jerusalem consulate that had served as its diplomatic channel to the Palestinians.
Speaking alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Blinken said the United States would provide an additional $75 million in development and economic aid to the Palestinians in 2021, $5.5 million in immediate disaster relief for Gaza and $32 million to the U.N. Palestinian aid agency based there.
"We know that to prevent a return to violence we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges," he said. "And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild."
Blinken reiterated that Washington intended to ensure that Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from the humanitarian aid - a potentially difficult task in an enclave over which it has a strong grip.
He said if aid were distributed correctly it could actually undermine Hamas as the group "thrives on despair, on misery, on desperation, on a lack of opportunity".
At a press conference later in the day, Blinken also warned against actions by Israel or the Palestinians that risk inciting tensions or ultimately undermine the two-state solution to which he said Washington was still committed.
The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and coordinated with the United States, began on Friday after 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years.
BLINKEN MEETS ISRAELI, PALESTINIAN LEADERS
Blinken began his regional visit in Jerusalem, where he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, speaking to reporters with the top U.S. diplomat at his side, threatened a "very powerful response" if Hamas renewed cross-border rocket strikes.
Blinken will be in the region through Thursday, and will also travel to Egypt and Jordan.
In tandem with his visit, Israel allowed fuel, medicine and food earmarked for Gaza's private sector to enter the territory for the first time since the hostilities erupted on May 10.
Blinken said reopening the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem would be "an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people". He declined to provide a timeline for the reopening.
The Trump administration merged the consulate with the U.S. Embassy in Israel in 2019, two years after recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Those moves broke with long-standing U.S. policy and infuriated Palestinians, who seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Biden has no plans to reverse the embassy relocation but has acted in the early months of his presidency to repair relations with Palestinians. In April, Biden restored hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid cut by Trump.
ABBAS LAUDS BIDEN ADMINISTRATION STANCE
Speaking alongside Blinken, Abbas thanked the Biden administration "for its commitment to the two-state solution (and maintaining) the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif" (Noble Sanctuary), a Jerusalem compound holy to Muslims and Jews that contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site.
Abbas also voiced gratitude for what he called American support "for the preservation of (Palestinian) residents of ... Sheikh Jarrah," an East Jerusalem neighbourhood where potential evictions of Palestinian families helped spark the Israel-Gaza fighting.
Negotiations between Israel and Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank, collapsed in 2014. While Biden has said a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, U.S. officials have suggested it was too early for wider peace talks.
Israel is in political flux after four inconclusive elections in two years, and the Palestinians are divided by enmity between Hamas and Abbas.
"Leaders on both sides will need to chart a better course," Blinken said, "starting by making real improvements in the lives of people in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank."
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas that the U.S. will transfer 75 million dollars to the rehabilitation of Gaza, as well as 30 million dollars to UNRWA.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has arrived in Ramallah in order to meet with the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Many Palestinians, who do not like this visit, are now demonstrating against it in the streets of the city.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agreed today during their meeting on establishing projects for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, alongside demanding that the Palestinians stop the incitement against Israel.
📸 Shlomi Amsalem, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesmanship
A senior State Department official said ahead of State Secretary Anthony Blinken’s visit to Israel on Tuesday that while the main focus of discussions will revolve around holding the ceasefire with Gaza, the issue of domestic rioting will come up in the conversations as well.
“We are worried about what happened. We too have dealt with similar challenges in the United States and understand it,” the top official was quoted as saying.
As war broke between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, scores of Israeli Arabs took to the streets and engaged in public order disruptions, blocking roads, hurling rocks at vehicles and even shooting incidents.
One Israeli civilian was killed in one such incident, and several others were vigorously beaten and seriously wounded.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday phoned Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a day after the ceasefire in Gaza went into effect.
Senior PA official Hussein Al-Sheikh wrote in a post on Twitter that during the phone call, Abbas “stressed the need to stop the Israeli aggression in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip and to stop settlers’ attacks.”
Source: Arutz 7