A discussion with the Egyptian intermediary before getting into the hard part. The head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken arrived in Cairo this Sunday, the first stage of his whirlwind tour of the Middle East in the midst of an outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Before traveling to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday, he will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and his Foreign Minister Sameh Choukri, Cairo historically playing an intermediary role with Palestinians as well as Israelis.
This displacement, planned for a long time, comes at a time when, in a few days, the security situation has suddenly deteriorated. On Friday and Saturday, seven people were killed and two injured in attacks in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian part of the Holy City occupied and annexed by Israel, including one near a synagogue. Also Friday, the Israeli army bombarded the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from this enclave which it maintains under blockade.
An Israeli raid on Thursday as a trigger
And this, after the deadliest Israeli raid in years, with nine Palestinians killed Thursday in Jenin, in the north of the occupied West Bank. Separately, Israeli security guards killed a Palestinian man near a settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday, with the Israeli army claiming he was armed.
Faced with this resurgence of violence, Anthony Blinken will urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to “take urgent measures for a de-escalation”, assured Friday a spokesperson for the State Department, Vedant Patel, after Washington condemned the “appalling” attack in East Jerusalem. But the Secretary of State’s room for maneuver seems limited beyond repeated calls for calm, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be at an impasse.
Netanyahu received at the White House?
During his trip, Anthony Blinken will insist on “the importance of maintaining the historic status quo” on the esplanade of the Mosques in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism where Palestinians and Israeli troops clash. “I think the best they can get is for things to stabilize in order to avoid a repeat of May 2021”, the last war between Israel and the Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, assures Aaron David Miller, former negotiator American and expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Anthony Blinken’s visit to Israel reflects Washington’s desire to quickly reconnect with Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history and whose relationship with the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden has been notoriously tense. This visit comes after that of the National Security Advisor of the White House, Jake Sullivan, who had assured the Israeli Prime Minister of the support of the United States. “I have never seen so many visits at such a high level under any administration,” said Aaron David Miller. “It’s unprecedented,” he adds, referring to a possible arrival of Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February.