World

West Bank unrest sets back Israel’s normalization hopes, says Blinken

2023.06.28 12:49


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to members of the media in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2023. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Turmoil in the occupied West Bank, where violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians is spiraling, is making Israel’s goal of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia “a lot tougher, if not impossible,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

The Biden administration earlier this week objected to an Israeli decision to authorize settlement construction, the latest move by the religious-nationalist coalition despite appeals form Washington not to fan rising tensions.

Asked at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York whether the dimmed prospect for a Palestinian state – given factors including Israeli settlement expansion and the recent uptick in violence in the West Bank – made normalization with Israel’s neighbors more difficult, Blinken said this was part of his conversations with Israeli officials.

“We’ve told our friends and allies in Israel that if there’s a fire burning in their backyard, it’s going to be a lot tougher, if not impossible, to actually both deepen the existing agreements, as well as to expand them to include potentially Saudi Arabia,” Blinken said, adding that he has spoken about the issue with Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday.

“It’s also, at least in our judgment as Israel’s closest friend and ally, profoundly not in Israel’s interest for this to happen – both because of the added degree of difficulty that this presents for pursuing normalization agreements, or deepening them, but also because of the practical consequences.”

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