Blinken warns Israeli PM, Palestinian president of West Bank escalation

Reuters  /  November 4, 2022

JERUSALEM – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, the official WAFA news agency reported, in a first call after Israel’s veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu led a far-right alliance to a general election victory.

Abbas reiterated his demand that the United States pressure Israel to stop its “crimes against the Palestinian people”, the WAFA report said, “including blockades, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, and settlement construction”.

According to the news report, Blinken told Abbas the U.S. administration was making efforts to calm the situation.

On Thursday, Blinken expressed his concern over spiraling violence in the occupied West Bank in a call with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and “underscored the need for all parties to urgently de-escalate the situation.”, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

More than 100 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces this year, in what the United Nations said is set to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, when the organization began tracking fatalities.

A string of fatal street attacks by Palestinians has killed 20 people in Israel and Israeli settlements, and four members of Israel’s security forces have also been killed this year.

Blinken also commended Israel for its free and fair elections and “reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship”, the spokesperson’s statement said.

Israel’s fifth election in less than four years confirmed a comeback for Netanyahu, now buoyed by smaller ultranationalist and religious parties. His victorious bloc includes lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, a West Bank settler and former member of Kach, a Jewish militant group on Israeli and U.S. terrorist watch lists.

While Washington has publicly reserved judgment pending the new Israeli coalition’s formation, the State Department spokesperson on Wednesday emphasized the countries’ “shared values”.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Henriette Chacar; editing by David Gregorio