US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is embarking on his third wartime visit to West Asia, engaging in crucial talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah. The high-stakes discussions are poised to tackle pressing issues, primarily centered around Gaza’s future and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
The details of the agenda have been scarce, but according to AFP, senior American officials revealed that Blinken aims to emphasize the necessity of sustaining humanitarian aid to Gaza, securing the release of hostages, and enhancing civilian protection in the region. More significantly, Blinken will delve into the principles he outlined for the future of Gaza and advocate for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
One prominent challenge on the table is the US pressure on Israel to collaborate with the Palestinian Authority and restrain settlers responsible for attacks on Palestinian villagers in the West Bank since October 7. Netanyahu, a longstanding critic of Abbas, has been resistant to the idea of a two-state solution.
The backdrop of the discussions is the aftermath of the Hamas-led October 7 attacks, which prompted a strong US backing of Israel. However, the Biden administration has also expressed concerns about the impact of Israeli retaliation on civilians, drawing attention to the humanitarian toll in Gaza.
President Joe Biden, echoing Blinken’s mission, reiterated the commitment to a two-state solution as a pathway to lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Despite the challenges and complexities, Biden emphasized the necessity of pursuing a solution that ensures freedom and dignity for both parties involved.
A significant aspect of this diplomatic puzzle is the fate of Gaza post-conflict. Biden and Blinken have previously advocated for the unification of Gaza with the Israeli-occupied West Bank under a reinvigorated Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, commonly known as Fatah. However, a New York Times report sheds light on the skepticism surrounding Fatah’s capability to govern a post-conflict Gaza.
According to the report, a considerable portion of West Bank Palestinians view Fatah as a collaborator with the Israeli government, raising doubts about its ability to function independently. The report also highlights the reliance on Israeli security for Fatah’s survival in the West Bank, and it underlines Palestinian perceptions of Fatah as an authoritarian, corrupt, and undemocratic administration.
Moreover, the report suggests that if elections were held promptly, Hamas might emerge victorious once again, as indicated by expert opinions and polls. The intricate dynamics between Fatah and Hamas, coupled with the challenges of governance in a post-conflict environment, pose significant hurdles in achieving a unified and stable Palestinian leadership.
As Blinken navigates these complexities during his diplomatic mission, the world watches with bated breath, hoping for progress and a step closer to a lasting resolution in one of the most volatile regions on the global stage.