Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced plans to reopen a key diplomatic outreach office to the Palestinians and pledged nearly $40 million in new aid—reversing key policies of the Trump administration as he moved to bolster the embattled Palestinian government in the West Bank. On his first official visit to the region, Blinken met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders with the immediate aim of shoring up last week's ceasefire that ended 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. He vowed to “rally international support” for the effort while also promising to ensure that none of the aid would reach Hamas, the AP reports. Blinken repeatedly alluded to the underlying issues of the decades-old conflict and expressed empathy for both sides, but he showed little interest in launching another US push for lasting peace, perhaps because previous efforts by past administrations have all failed. Instead, he expressed hope for creating a “better environment” that might one day yield peace talks.
Despite these modest aims, Blinken made clear that President Biden will pursue a more even-handed approach to the region than former President Trump, who sided overwhelmingly with Israel in virtually every area of disagreement with the Palestinians. “As I told the president, I’m here to underscore the commitment of the United States to rebuilding the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship built on mutual respect and also a shared conviction that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom opportunity, and dignity,” he said after a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. In an act with great symbolic meaning, Blinken said the US would reopen its Jerusalem consulate—an office that for years served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Trump had downgraded its operations and placed them under his ambassador to Israel when he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in 2018.
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