In his first Middle East trip, United States secretary of state Anthony Blinken appears to be doing and saying the right things. The trip, meant to bolster the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, took him to Israel, Ramallah, Egypt and Jordan.
He announced a multimillion-dollar aid to the Palestinians, part of which will be used in the reconstruction of Gaza, and the opening of the American consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed by former president Donald Trump.
The reopening of the consulate is seen as a gesture towards the Palestinians because the mission traditionally served as the main venue for US relations with Palestinians.
Following his talks with Israeli officials and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken wrote on Twitter that US “intensive diplomacy continues to build a future where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of security, freedom, prosperity, and democracy.”
Very encouraging words indeed. He told president Abbas that president Biden will pursue a more even-handed approach than Trump, who sided overwhelmingly with Israel.
That is all good. But not enough. The region expects the US to do more than that, a lot more to relaunch the peace process. However, Blinken in his talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials made it clear that Washington “has no immediate plans” to initiate peace talks.
Before the war on Gaza, the US administration has signalled its plans to disengage from the region to focus on its foreign policy priorities, particularly China, Iran and Europe.
The 11 days of attacks by the Israelis on Gaza and the West Bank, and the occupation’s continuing campaign to confiscate Palestinian lands and evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem and other cities prove that the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, are unable to sit and talk peace.
Now, following a bloody Israel campaign that killed more than 200 Palestinians, the gap has grown wider. Without the US intervention, the region will continue to witness more bloodshed in the occupied territories.
Blinken is wrong to rule out his country’s intervention in this regard. The Palestinians are in dire need for the aid. But they, as well as the entire region, long more for an actual peace process based on United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative that would actually ensure “equal measures of security, freedom, prosperity, and democracy” — the goals Blinken said he was hoping to achieve in the Middle East.