(THE TIMES OF ISRAEL) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday.
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken told Abbas that Palestinians in Gaza “must not be forcibly displaced.”
Miller said the pair also discussed “the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians” in the West Bank, presumably referring to the rapidly rising number of recent attacks — some deadly — committed by extremist settlers. According to Hebrew media reports, the Shin Bet security service has warned the government of its concerns of an eruption of violence in the West Bank if settler extremists are not reined in.
According to remarks carried by the PA’s official Wafa news agency, Abbas decried what he called Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip.
“I have no words to describe the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law,” Abbas told Blinken.
He also said the PA would only be ready to shoulder full responsibility for the Gaza Strip in the framework of a “comprehensive political solution” that includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
According to a senior official, Blinken said the US envisions the PA “playing a central role” in any post-Hamas administration in Gaza.
Blinken and other US officials have been promoting a vague outline for a post-war Gaza that might include a combination of a revitalised PA — which has not been a factor in Gaza since it was ousted by Hamas in a violent coup — with international organisations and potentially a peacekeeping force.
The PA has avoided condemning the October 7 Hamas onslaught. Instead, Ramallah has made vague pronouncements about protecting civilians on both sides, while harshly decrying Israel’s military offensive.
Blinken’s visit to Ramallah came a day after he visited Amman, where he met with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts, who are pushing for a ceasefire amid the mounting death toll in Gaza.
Blinken held firm to the US position that a ceasefire would harm Israel’s right and obligation to defend its citizens after the devastating onslaught by Hamas.
He said the US supports “humanitarian pauses” in Israel’s operations to allow for the improved flow of aid and increased transit of foreign nationals out of Gaza and into Egypt. Israel has appeared to reject Blinken’s push for a humanitarian pause.
US officials believe that Netanyahu may soften his opposition if he can be convinced that it is in Israel’s strategic interests to ease the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The soaring death toll has sparked growing international anger, with tens of thousands from Washington to Berlin taking to the streets over the weekend to demand an immediate cease-fire.
The Arab foreign ministers with whom Blinken met in Amman – from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates – issued the same demand.
Blinken also met with Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, whose economically and politically ravaged country is home to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. The United States has grave concerns that Hezbollah, which has stepped up rocket and cross-border attacks on northern Israel, will take a more active role in the Israel-Hamas war.
Blinken additionally met with the foreign minister of Qatar, whose country has emerged as the most influential interlocutor with Hamas. Qatar has been key to negotiating the limited release of hostages held by Hamas as well as persuading the terror group to allow foreign citizens to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt.
After departing Ramallah, Blinken was set to travel to Turkey for meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other top officials, the State Department said.