Blinken’s uphill struggle amid Israeli provocations
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, when he emphasized America’s commitment to the two-state solution for peace — a solution that Netanyahu’s coalition government partners do not support.
Blinken must have known that the term “two-state solution” might draw the ire of Netanyahu’s right-wing partners, as Israel steps up its military assaults in the West Bank, having killed more than 30 Palestinians in the past 30 days.
The Israeli violence has provoked protests from Palestinians, including some violence targeting Israeli Jews. Israel’s propaganda arm is so fierce it had no shame in distorting one attack that occurred at a bus stop near a synagogue that took seven Jewish lives by falsely claiming it took place “in” the synagogue — a lie augmented by the biased pro-Israel Western news media.
That was what Blinken was up against when he left for the Middle East to first meet with Egyptian officials before tackling the tougher audiences, including Netanyahu and Palestine’s weak president, Mahmoud Abbas.
You knew that Blinken was concerned about what he would say when meeting Netanyahu because, that same morning, the State Department published a fact sheet online titled “US Relations with Israel.” The document detailed America’s “strong and historic ties” to Israel and the “security assistance and cooperation” it receives from Washington.
However, there was no need to publish a reminder about the US’ “commitment” to the Palestinians, mainly because it has been inconsistent at best, with it being particularly disrupted during the presidency of Donald Trump. Palestinians should be lucky, apparently, with what they get from the US, which describes itself as “Israel’s strongest ally,” as is reiterated in the frequent statements issued by members of the US Congress, including just before they solicit and receive funds from pro-Israel political action committees and supporters. Such statements, like the one published in 2021 by Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, heap huge praise on Israel, while slamming Arab countries and singling out the Palestinians’ “senseless terror.”
Blinken has a tough job. He knows it is not easy to challenge Israeli policies, let alone criticize them. But the fact that Blinken asserted the need for a two-state solution, which Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners find abhorrent, shows his courage to pursue justice and a sensible peace accord. He also called Israel’s illegal settlements an obstacle to peace.
The fact that Blinken asserted the need for a two-state solution shows his courage to pursue justice and a sensible peace accord.
But it will take more than strong assertions to end this deadly conflict. Israel continues to increase its assaults and restrictions on Palestinians and those acts provoke more protests, which Israel’s propaganda falsely asserts are acts of terror.
In Memphis, five Black police officers brutalized and ended up killing an African American civilian, causing outroar across the US. Do not forget that Memphis police, like police departments around America, receive military-style training from Israeli security companies. Meanwhile, Israel kills 30 civilians and the US and Western media treats it like an everyday occurrence — not really news because it happens so often. It is only when Israeli Jews are killed that the media, members of Congress and activists scream for justice.
The data shows that Israeli soldiers and armed settlers kill far more Palestinians than Palestinians kill Israelis. In addition to the killings, which number in the thousands, Israel has also evicted thousands of Palestinians from their homes, and then destroyed those homes.
Many of the Palestinians killed are targeted by Israeli snipers, including American Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. No one has been held accountable for her murder last May because Israel refuses to take responsibility.
A two-state solution is the only way to get Israelis and Palestinians out of this endless cycle of violence.
Blinken should be praised for his courage in not backing down in the face of an overwhelming onslaught of propaganda from Israel about the violence it intentionally provokes. Of course, he can do more, but he needs support from the Palestinians and from the Arab world, which he is not really getting. The Palestinian political establishment is dysfunctional and Abbas, though a good, well-intentioned person, is ineffective. The Palestinians need a new leader, someone who can be both a diplomat and a fierce champion of justice.
Israelis assert that the absence of Palestinian elections is a cause of that dysfunction, but the truth is that a people under occupation can never have a legitimate election because of the interference and influence of the occupier. Despite such restrictions, Palestinians and the Arab world need to do more.
Although the quickly rising number of Palestinian killings is shocking, it represents only a small percentage of the population in Israel and the Occupied Territories. This means that these deaths can only fuel more anger and violence, while doing nothing to achieve the Israeli extremists’ goal of getting non-Jews out. If you do not believe that is the goal, ask yourself this question: How come Israel never establishes illegal settlements for non-Jews? All of the illegal settlements are exclusively for Jews, who are armed and mostly extremist.
The importance of what Blinken is doing in this horrible, deadly environment should not be underestimated. Also, last November’s appointment of Hady Amr as special representative for Palestinian affairs was a major step toward conveying the Biden administration’s concern for the suffering of the Palestinians. Amr has an important agenda, including helping to reopen the US consulate for Palestinians and creating a forum where Palestinian grievances can be lodged.
Blinken’s efforts are only a small part of the impact the US has on the Israel-Palestine conflict. But they should not be taken lightly and respected for what they are.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com.