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January 31, 2023 8:34 am

Blinken Arrives in Israel Ahead of Meeting with Netanyahu

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, US January 7, 2022. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday afternoon, ahead of meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

The top US diplomat is also slated to meet Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday.

Blinken kicked off his Middle East trip on Sunday in Egypt, where he urged Israel and the Palestinians to restore calm and de-escalate tensions.

On Friday night, a Palestinian terrorist killed seven people in a shooting rampage at a synagogue in Jerusalem. A day later, another Palestinian seriously wounded an Israeli father and son in a shooting attack in the Israeli capital.

The Iranian nuclear threat is expected to factor high on the agenda during Blinken’s visit.

On Sunday, he said that while Washington prefers a diplomatic path forward with Tehran, everything—including a military option—was on the table.

Asked whether US military exercises with Israel and others in the region are meant to deter Iran, Blinken replied, “All of our military efforts are designed with the idea of deterrence in mind—that is, to try to make sure that a would-be aggressor thinks twice, thinks three times, and then doesn’t do it.”

In an interview with Al Arabiya‘s Nadia Bilbassy at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Blinken was asked about his trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“How can you defuse the tension? Do you fear a third intifada? How can you activate a meaningful meaning of the two-state solution?” the reporter asked.

“I think we’ve seen horrific terrorist attacks in the last couple of days that we condemn and deplore,” said Blinken. “We also see civilian loss of life that is very deeply disturbing. And the most important thing in the near term is to try to get some calm,” he added.

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