US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict in a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Department of State said in a statement on Saturday.
The top US diplomat discussed joint efforts to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom in a call with Abbas on Friday, the statement said.
Blinken “underscored his deep concern over the situation in the West Bank, including heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, and emphasised the need for all parties to de-escalate the situation urgently,” according to the Department of State.
He also “further reaffirmed our commitment to a two-state solution,” which envisions an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel.
The statement came against the backdrop of soaring violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinian president apprised the US secretary of state of the Israeli attacks against Palestinians, the Israeli blockade of Palestinian towns and villages as well as settler violence, the Wafa news agency reported.
Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank and the occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, as Israel tallied the final votes in national elections held this week.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a comfortable majority backed by far-right allies, including Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party, who has called for Palestinians “disloyal” to Israel to be expelled.
On Friday, tensions flared up again in the blockaded Gaza Strip as Israeli fighter jets targeted what they called a “rocket manufacturing site”, in response to several rockets fired towards Israel – the first launched since Israel’s three-day deadly military offensive in the besieged enclave in August.
No Palestinian faction claimed the rocket attacks.
Hazem Qasem, a spokesman for Hamas, said “the barbaric Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip at dawn today is a blatant act of aggression, and represents an extension of its open war against our people in all the places we exist.”
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in near-daily Israeli raids in the occupied territories since the beginning of the year.
Israel has intensified the raids in the wake of a series of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel in March.
The Biden administration has sought to restore credible US engagement with Palestinians after the administration of former US President Donald Trump cut aid, downgraded the status of its main diplomatic mission in Palestine and inflamed tensions by relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of the latter as Israel’s capital.
Israel wants undivided Jerusalem as its capital. It effectively has de facto control over the city after annexing East Jerusalem – a move not recognised by the international community.
Palestinians see Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state.
The status of Jerusalem remains one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
During his confirmation hearing in January 2021, Blinken also reiterated his support for a two-state solution, but added, “Realistically, it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that.”
“What would be important is to make sure that neither party takes steps that make the already difficult process even more challenging,” he said.
The Israeli government has forged ahead with the construction of new settlements that are illegal under international law and that jeopardise Palestinian hopes for an independent state.