WASHINGTON (AP) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the expansion of Israeli settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank has further distanced Israel from peace with the Palestinians.
However, he insisted that US-Israel relations remain “ironclad”, praised US security commitments to the Jewish state and said that a Joe Biden administration would continue to promote normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly formally with Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, he made clear Washington’s dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government’s moves to expand Jewish settlements and accelerate the demolition of Palestinian homes.
“The expansion of settlements clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope that we seek,” Blinken insisted in a speech before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Commission in Washington.
“Similarly, any move, actual or legal, towards the annexation of the West Bank, disruption of the historical status quo at holy sites, domestic demolition and eviction of families who have lived in their homes for generations harms the two-state approach , ” He added.
He reiterated that improving Arab-Israeli relations cannot replace a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Blinken said, “Unification and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israel and the Palestinians and should not come at the cost of it.” “Israel’s deeper ties with its allies can and should promote the welfare of the Palestinian people and the prospects of a two-state solution.”
Blinken will visit Saudi Arabia this week to discuss the possibility of Saudi Arabia joining the so-called “Abraham Accords” that were agreed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco under President Donald Trump.