Amid a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories starting today. Talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen are on the agenda in Israel. It is said to be about Israel's increasing integration into the region and its relations with the Palestinians. The topic of Iran should also be the focus.
Blinken wants to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow in Ramallah. The aim of the visit to the region is de-escalation. Israel is adopting a hard-line policy after the worst attack by a Palestinian in 15 years. The United States had unequivocally condemned the attack on visitors to a synagogue in east Jerusalem, which killed seven people.
Blinken criticizes settlement policy
Netanyahu yesterday announced new steps against assassins and their families. He also spoke of strengthening the Israeli settlement project. Blinken had recently criticized the Israeli settlement policy in the occupied West Bank in clear terms.
Israel's government -- the farthest right the country has ever had -- has been in office for just a month. Since then, the conflict with the Palestinians has once again dangerously escalated. However, the wave of violence had already begun with a series of attacks during the tenure of the more liberal previous government.
The nuclear dispute with Iran is likely to be one of Blinken's topics of conversation in Israel. The US government has not ruled out military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Blinken told Al-Arabija in an interview on Sunday that all options were on the table. When asked if that included a military option, Blinken didn't rule it out.
Biden: Attack "as a last resort"
However, he also said that the preferred path is through diplomacy. Iran had the chance to return to the international nuclear deal but turned it down, Blinken said. As early as the summer of 2022, US President Joe Biden had not ruled out an attack “as a last resort”.
Just a few days ago, the United States completed a large-scale military exercise with Israel. According to media reports, it was the largest military exercise that Israel and the United States have ever held together. The background is growing concerns about Iran's nuclear program.