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March 27, 2022 4:27 pm
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Bennett Urges US to Heed Regional Concern Over Dropping IRGC From Terrorist List

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Workers put up flags in preparation for “The Negev Summit” to be hosted by Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, in Sde Boker, Israel, March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged the US to listen to its allies in the Middle East concerned over the possibility of removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from a list of terror groups as part of efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Bennett told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference in Jerusalem that Israel is “concerned about the intention to delist the IRGC,” from its list of terrorist organizations.

“Their proxy, the Houthis, just this weekend carried out a horrific attack on Saudi Arabia,” Bennett said. “I hope the US will hear the concerned voices from the region, Israel’s and others, on this very important issue.”

Bennett last week warned that US willingness to remove the IRGC from its list of foreign terrorist organizations would be “too high a price” to pay for a supposed commitment from Iran of de-escalation in the region. Washington blacklisted the IRGC in April 2019 for supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Bahrain, and the Gulf region.

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Blinken arrived in Israel to join his counterparts from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt on Sunday for a two-day summit in the Negev desert, which Bennett described as “historic.”

As the summit convened Sunday, two Arab gunmen killed two Israelis in the city of Hadera. The two assailants, Arab citizens of Israel, opened fire on a main street before being shot dead.

Bennett visited the Hadera police station Sunday night for assessments with security officials and to meet with one of the officers who killed the attackers, the prime minister’s office said later.

In the joint press conference earlier on Sunday, Bennett  alsoconveyed to Blinken that ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which starts at the end of the week, Israel’s cabinet had approved 20,000 workers from the Gaza Strip to be able to work in Israel.

“Our government is working very hard to improve the lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza,” Bennett stated. “We are going to be investing almost 40 million shekels in improving the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip to allow smooth and dignified movement between Gaza and Israel.”

“While we can’t solve everything, we can improve the lives of people on ground and thanks to your help, this is happening,” he added.

Blinken commended Bennett and the Israeli government for efforts to address challenges facing Palestinians, citing the increase of Israeli water sales to Gaza and legalizing the status of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

He also expressed his support for the prospect of Israeli cabinet members meeting with Palestinian leaders, referring to reports that Defense Minister Benny Gantz wants to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah next week.

“Our administration is also rebuilding America’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, something I will continue to do today in Ramallah with President Abbas, and in east Jerusalem with leaders of that community’s vibrant and diverse civil society,” Blinken announced. “We are increasing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, totaling half a billion dollars since April of 2021.”

Gantz said Sunday that Israel will continue to work with the Palestinian Authority in order to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of its citizens.

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