Blinken tells Israel: Palestinians should enjoy equal rights and freedoms

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blink on Friday called on Israel to treat Palestinians “equally” as the new U.S. The administration will cautiously pursue efforts for a two-state solution.

In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Gabby Ashkenazi, Blink stressed the administration’s belief that Israel and the Palestinians should enjoy equal access to freedom, security, prosperity and democracy, State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said.

Blinken is also committed to Israel’s security, “strengthening all aspects of the US-Israel partnership” and supporting the Jewish state agreement over the past year to normalize relations with four more Arab nations.

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The call came amid another round of Israeli political uncertainty, Israel’s fourth in two years, after last week’s draw.

US President George W. Biden, while emphasizing support for Israel, has also hinted at backing down from his predecessor Donald Trump’s unwavering support for the right-wing Netanyahu.

The administration has stepped up humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and in recent days it has become clear that it believes Israel’s control of the West Bank is “occupied.”

“We believe that when it comes to reconciliation activity, Israel should refrain from unilateral measures that increase tensions and reduce efforts to advance the negotiated two-state settlement,” Price said Thursday.

Blinkon’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, broke the East by saying he did not outlaw Israeli construction on the land he occupied in 1967, and he visited the West Bank settlement last year.

After a security briefing at Mount Bentle in the Golan Heights on November 19, 2020, near the Israeli-Syrian border, Secretary of State Gabi Ashkenazi, left, spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP Photo / Patrick Semensky, Pool)

Blinken has made it clear, however, that the administration will not reverse some of Trump’s signature steps, which would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Blinken’s phone call with Ashkenazi came on the same day that UNICEF lifted sanctions on top officials imposed under the Trump administration at the International Criminal Court.

Blinken said the economic sanctions imposed on ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensuda and the 2019 top aide were “inappropriate and ineffective” and had therefore been lifted.

The Hague-based court is investigating alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by the Afghan army, the Taliban and the US military. It also recently opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. allies Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups. Neither the US nor Israel is a member of the ICC.

Blinken briefed Ashkenazi on the move before it was announced by the state department.

Last month, the administration said it “strongly” opposes the ICC’s decision to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem by Israelis and Palestinians.

The Times Israel f Israel staff contributed to this report.

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