Blinken talks to Lapid and Abbas on Israeli-Palestinian issues
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday and discussed Israeli-Palestinian issues with him, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Blinken also spoke separately with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the same subject, the US State Department said.
In his call with Lapid, Blinken spoke of “the strong US-Israeli relationship and shared challenges, including the risks of further Russian aggression against Ukraine as well as threats posed by Iran,” the official said. press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Blinken reiterated the administration’s unwavering commitment to Israel‘s security,” he said.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing that Blinken had called on Abbas as part of efforts to “prioritize re-engagement with the Palestinian people and the ‘Palestinian Authority‘.
Price said there was a discussion about “the need to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people in a tangible way” and “the need for reform within the Palestinian Authority“.
Blinken also stressed to Abbas that the US policy remains “that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live with equal measures of security, freedom, prosperity and, above all, dignity.”
A reading of the phone call from Abbas’s office did not mention the call for reform, according to a Reuters news agency report, and said Abbas had told Blinken that Israel must ” end prisoner abuse” and “tax withholding”. .”
Since 2018, Israel has withheld certain tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority to penalize it for payments to imprisoned terrorists and families of dead attackers. The sums run into the hundreds of millions of shekels, but Israel has nonetheless found other ways to transfer funds to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
At the State Department press conference, Price was asked to comment on an Amnesty International report to be released Tuesday that calls Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “apartheid.”
Price said “we’ll reserve official commentary until we have a chance to see it,” but added, “that’s not the language we used and never would.”
Regarding the death of an elderly Palestinian-American citizen last month while in Israeli custody, which is being investigated by the Israeli military police and has already seen two officers removed from their posts, Price said only stated that “we continue to support an investigation that is thorough and complete into the circumstances of the incident, and we look forward to receiving additional information as soon as possible.
The spokesperson declined to say whether Blinken’s call with Abbas also covered the reopening of the US consulate general in Jerusalem, an issue that is hampering Washington’s efforts to restore ties with the Palestinians, damaged under the Trump administration.
The Biden administration has claimed that the United States plans to reopen the consulate which historically served as a de facto mission for the Palestinians, but which was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019. Trump had previously angered Palestinians by moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv. in Jerusalem that year, prompting the Ramallah-based PA to refuse to meet with US officials.
However, Washington delayed reopening the site, apparently due to pressure from Israel.
Earlier this month, Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel that the PA would deny US reform demands unless Washington honors its own pledges to fully restore ties with Ramallah, including reopening the consulate.