Antony Blinken - US Politics News Today

Tensions between Israel and Palestine after a wave of terrorist attacks and raids could escalate into full-scale rocket attacks, as they did in May 2021. Such forecasts were given by politicians and experts interviewed.

According to them, the chances of avoiding an escalation are now small; everything depends on whether the Jewish state will arrange acts of retribution in response to attacks in Jerusalem. At the same time, a new round of tension coincided with the Middle East tour of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Experts believe that even Washington now does not have enough leverage to influence the situation – everything depends solely on the steps of the leadership both in Israel and in Palestine.

Palestinian crisis

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken ‘s visit to the countries of the Middle East coincided with the destabilization of the situation in the region. On January 29, he visited Egypt, and on January 30-31, he plans to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Blinken intends to meet first with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said. In particular, the American politician wants to discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations, as well as to emphasize “the importance of the two-state solution.”

Antony Blinken (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu
Antony Blinken (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu

A new round began with an operation by the Israeli army in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the West Bank on January 26, as a result of which, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, nine people were killed. At the same time, the Israeli military said that they were able to prevent the attack of the “terrorist squad” of the Islamic Jihad group.

Literally a day later, on January 27, on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, there was a terrorist attack near a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov district in East Jerusalem, where seven people were killed. This was followed by another shooting – this time at the site of the archaeological site “City of David”.

As a result of the attack, two were injured. In addition, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, which the air defense systems of the Jewish state were able to intercept. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a “quick, strong and precise response” to this rocket launch.

According to Sergei Melkonyan, a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Applied Political Research (APRI), such a development of the situation was expected.

  • Now the “ball” is on the side of Israel. If he decides to conduct a larger operation than what took place in Jenin or on the territory of Gaza, then we can already expect an escalation with the use of missiles from both Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” the expert said”. – We can assume that both organizations have restored their capabilities after the last large-scale escalation. What is happening now can be called a rate hike.

The situation can reach rocket attacks, as in August 2022 and earlier, in May 2021, Khatib Samir, a member of the Israeli parliamentary party Hadash, believes. According to him, the leadership of the current Israeli government is the extreme right, and the current escalation is a test of their election slogans.

“Israel will seek to increase repression against the Palestinian people and may start bombing Gaza, which will lead to a missile escalation,” the politician added.

On the other hand, we are on the threshold of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. If the current tensions continue without political resolution, then any new provocation after the recent operations could easily set the region on fire. And it’s all about the actions of Israel, not the Palestinians.

American influence on the far right

Following the results of the parliamentary elections on November 1, 2022, the Likud party received a majority of votes, its leader Benjamin Netanyahu formed a government and sworn in on December 29. The new cabinet included ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, as well as far-right religious groups, which is why experts and Israelis themselves call this Netanyahu government the most right-wing in the history of the country.

In particular, ultra-radical politicians Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich entered the cabinet. The first took the post of Minister of National Security, and the second became the head of the Ministry of Finance.

Concerns about the inclusion of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in the cabinet were also expressed by the US ruling circles. Like National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who previously visited Israel, US officials say Secretary Blinken has no plans to meet with any of the far-right cabinet members.

The State Department also said that Blinken intends to urge the Israeli authorities to maintain the current status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam.

As Sergei Melkonyan noted in an interview, the agenda of the visit of the US Secretary of State is quite broad. At the same time, the planned meeting with the Palestinian leadership indicates that the issue of, if not settlement, then de-escalation of the situation is also important for Washington.

It is difficult to say how successful the attempts will be. Much depends, among other things, on the alignment within the Palestinians. After all, Mahmoud Abbas, apparently, does not have that fullness of power that would allow him to control the entire situation.

Antony Blinken (left) and Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian President
Antony Blinken (left) and Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian President

However, after a similar conversation with Blinken in November 2022, the situation somewhat stabilized. But today the situation has already become more acute than it was a couple of months ago, he noted.

At the same time, the Palestinian authorities are ready to negotiate with any Israeli government, Khatib Sameer, a member of the Hadash parliamentary party, said. According to him, it is Netanyahu’s cabinet that is refusing dialogue.

At the same time, Hamas stated that it would be easier for it to come to an agreement with the new right-wing government, Sergey Melkonyan noted. The main question is what position the ultra-right members of Netanyahu’s cabinet will take.

However, it cannot be unequivocally stated that they will insist on a large-scale operation and refuse to negotiate, the expert added. In addition, this is the first major external crisis that the new government needs to overcome in order to justify the request for “stability” of the coalition.

Iranian question

However, the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the only pressing issue on the agenda of the Secretary of State’s visit to Jerusalem. During the meeting, Antony Blinken intends to discuss “US continued support for Israel’s security, especially in light of threats from Iran,” the State Department said in a statement. This aspect becomes extremely acute in the light of the attack on a military plant on the territory of the Islamic Republic.

On the night of January 29, a powerful explosion thundered at an Iranian military plant, it later turned out that the attack was carried out by drones. Initially, the media, citing sources, reported that the United States and “another country” were involved in this attack, but Washington officially denied this information. After that, suspicions fell on Israel. As The Wall Street Journal wrote, citing US officials, it was the Israeli side that struck the plant, as it, together with the United States, is trying to curb Iran’s nuclear and military ambitions.

The Secretary of State himself, in an interview with Al Arabiya, which was released on the eve of his departure to Israel, noted that the United States prefers diplomatic means to prevent the emergence of nuclear weapons in Iran, but “there are all options on the table” to prevent such an outcome.

However, the United States does not benefit from the opening of “one more front,” orientalist Roland Bidzhamov suggested in an interview.

  • Most likely, they are interested in increasing pressure on Iran, intensifying the escalation in this direction, but they do not want to bring the matter to a military clash. Obviously, the time has not yet come for this, and there are also no corresponding opportunities,” the expert predicted.

In his opinion, stakes will be placed on constant pressure on Tehran, including through such operations. But it is unlikely that now we are talking about starting direct hostilities between Iran and Israel, concluded Roland Bidzhamov.