Top U.S. diplomats headed a trip to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank on Saturday to focus on democracy as a deadly spiral of violence hits the Middle East and regions brace for unbanned reprisals. Plans to hit are overshadowed by the Palestinian offensive pledged by the new extremist Israeli government.
Secretary of State Antony J. Brinken will be the top US official to meet with Israel’s new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and populated by far-right nationalists and Harredim.
A month after taking office, the Netanyahu government alarmed U.S. officials by announcing a number of policies that many Israelis said would undermine Israel’s democracy and civil rights.
The Blinken delegation will use the two-day conference in Jerusalem to discuss the normalization or recognition of Israel in the region, the rights and freedoms of Palestinians and Israelis, and the importance of creating a Palestinian state.
Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, said “normalization – advancing and deepening it” will be on the agenda, as will the Biden administration’s “unsparing commitment to a negotiated bilateral settlement”. ‘ said. Journey.
But these issues play an important role next to Blinken’s more immediate mission to help de-escalate in the wake of the past days of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Some analysts predict that serious criticism of the Israeli government’s more drastic proposals will likely be shelved.
The wave of violence began Thursday night when nine people were killed in an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Israel has identified most of them as militants planning terrorist attacks inside Israel. A woman in her 60s also died, according to Palestinian authorities.
The next day, as Israeli Jews were celebrating the Sabbath on Friday night, a suspected Palestinian man opened fire near a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven before police shot the assailant, adding to the number. Palestinian militant groups hailed the attack, and celebrations were reported in several Palestinian towns.
During these two deadly episodes, Palestinian militants fired rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, and Israel launched several airstrikes against Palestinian positions. No casualties were reported.
On Saturday, Israeli police said a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and wounded an Israeli father and son near the Old City of Jerusalem. Police injured and arrested the perpetrator.
Given the history and explosive tension of the moment, the cycle of killings is likely to continue. US officials said they have been in constant phone calls with Israeli and Palestinian officials to urge calm since the Jenin operation.
President Biden called Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday night to condemn the deadly shooting at the synagogue, in what Mr Biden called an “attack on the civilized world.”
In response to Jenin’s death, Palestinian authorities, the weakened organization that governs the West Bank, announced that they would suspend their quietly successful security cooperation with Israel.
“Obviously, we don’t think this is the right step at this point,” Leaf said of the move. “Far from rolling back security coordination, we believe it is critically important that parties maintain and even deepen security coordination.”
But some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have threatened to take an increasingly tough stance against the Palestinians. Now, tough rhetoric will be put to the test as the government faces a real security crisis.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted in Israel years ago of inciting anti-Arab hatred but is now a minister in charge of national security. Ben-Gvir once advocated the deportation of “all Arabs”, but recently softened his position, saying Palestinian “terrorists” should be deported. He proposed changing the rules of engagement to make it easier for police to fire at Palestinian demonstrators and make it more difficult to hold accountable.
Ben-Gvir’s presence in a cabinet with such a strong security role is particularly disturbing to Palestinians. US officials have also criticized some of his actions: He attended a recent memorial service for his hero Meir Kahane, who was murdered.
Late Friday, Netanyahu promised “immediate action” in response to the synagogue shooting.
“We must act with determination and poise,” he said, urging citizens not to let the law into their own hands.
At the scene of the shooting, Ben-Gvir appeared to convey the opposite message, promising to make it easier for civilians to be armed.
Netanyahu did not want to confront the Palestinian issue during his tenure because violent reprisals risked angering Arab states that had only recently recognized Israel, and Netanyahu wanted to join the quest for normalization. Because there are, said Nimrod Goren. Head of the Middle East Institute in Washington and a think tank in Jerusalem that studies regional politics.
“The region will react to whatever happens to the Palestinian people,” Goren said from his home in Israel. If they do, they won’t.”
“The question is how quickly they will attack Israel and its government,” he added.
While the death toll in the region over the past few days has been eye-opening, the pace of violence, especially in the West Bank, has risen steadily for nearly a year.
Following a series of Palestinian attacks, Israel launched a campaign of raids on villages across the West Bank last spring in what it said was an effort to eliminate militant cells. About 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem last year, along with about 30 Israelis, according to local human rights groups that track them. Before Thursday’s Jenin attacks, he was averaging one Palestinian killed a day this year.
Netanyahu’s new government has advocated a number of policies that go against US goals, including plans to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians claim to be a future independent state. Settlements that many nations consider illegal under international law have proliferated exponentially to the point that neighboring Palestinian nations may now be unable to do so.
Netanyahu and his partners are also overhauling Israel’s judicial system to prevent courts from scrutinizing the law and removing important checks and balances mechanisms. Netanyahu’s critics say Netanyahu’s aim is to nullify criminal corruption cases against him.
Ultra-Orthodox members of the Cabinet want to inject more religion into education, make it harder for unorthodox foreign Jews to obtain Israeli citizenship, and denounce LGBTQ rights. increase. Some ministers, led by Ben-Gvir, want to change the traditional status quo of religious institutions in the Holy City, which are subtly divided among his three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. A few days after his inauguration, Ben-Gvir made a provocative trip to his mount Temple, known to Muslims as a noble sanctuary. There, despite being a sacred place for both Muslims and Jews, only Muslims can pray there, under years of rules.
“We oppose any unilateral action that undermines the historical status quo,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time. “They are not accepted.”
Brinken’s trip to Israel, which stops in Cairo, follows visits earlier that month by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and reportedly by CIA Director William Burns. The sweeping court coverage reflects concerns about Israel’s new government, which some fear could destabilize the region.