Blinken warned Israeli officials against evictions of Palestinians: report
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview published Thursday that he warned Israeli officials against evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and unrest at the Temple Mount.
Speaking to Axios’s Barak Ravid while on his flight back from the Middle East, Blinken said he told Israeli officials that further upheaval would lead to renewed “tension, conflict and war.”
Blinken told Ravid that when meeting Israeli officials, he brought up “evictions of Palestinians from their homes where they lived for decades and generations, the demolitions of housing as well … and of course everything that took place on and around the Temple Mount.”
Speaking to Palestinian officials, Blinken raised concerns about “incitement to violence or letting violence go forward with impunity,” along with “very problematic” payments to the families of Palestinians convicted of terrorism.
Ravid reports that Blinken did not characterize how either sides responded to his remarks, saying he would rather let them speak for themselves about “how they’re taking all that on board.”
According to Blinken, he received word from Israel and Hamas — indirectly through Egypt — that both sides wish to maintain the cease-fire that was announced last week.
“But it’s also important that we avoid various actions that could unintentionally, or not, spark another round of violence,” Blinken said.
“The ceasefire was not an end in itself, as important as it was, but also a means to have some space to start to build something a little bit more positive,” he added.
“We raised the concerns that we have on all sides with actions that in the first instance could spark tension, conflict and war and also ultimately undermine even further the difficult prospects for two states,” Blinken added.
Blinken said his takeaway from his trip to the Middle East was that the conflict between Israel and Palestine had “not magically disappeared,” and still needs to be addressed. Blinken also acknowledged that the Biden administration had not emphasized the peace process due conditions that were not favorable to progress.
“In the absence of more positive conditions, I think it is hard to see what utility there would be in making some kind of major push right out of the box,” he said.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan said earlier in May that the Israeli government’s decision to delay eviction rulings in Jerusalem and to attempt to ease tensions around the Al Aqsa Mosque had been made on the advice of the Biden administration.
“We consulted with the American administration; those were basically all the recommendations we got from the international community, how to lower tensions,” Erdan said in an interview on CNN. “But one should understand, those are all excuses, because you cannot justify launching missiles and rockets deliberately on civilians.”
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