Blinken sees 'extraordinary' opportunity for Israel to normalize ties with neighbors

Top US diplomat says Arab countries lead genuine efforts to revitalize Palestinian Authority so it can be more effective in representing Palestinians; Herzog replies Israel must first complete job of 'eradicating' Hamas

Reuters, Ynet|Updated:
There is "an extraordinary opportunity" in the coming months for Israel to normalize ties with its Arab neighbors, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday, while also emphasizing the need for the creation of a Palestinian state.
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The top U.S. diplomat said Arab countries led genuine efforts to revitalize the Palestinian Authority so it can be more effective in representing the Palestinians.
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אנתוני בלינקן
אנתוני בלינקן
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
(Photo: Shmulik Davidpur)
"Virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalize provide security commitments and assurances so that Israel can feel more safe," Blinken said during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference.
"And there's also, I think the imperative, that's more urgent than ever, to proceed to a Palestinian state that also ensures the security of Israel," he added.
Blinken later met with President Isaac Herzog on the sidelines of the security conference, who told him “I heard your remarks today, and I think that I find them very interesting. I think there are opportunities; they need to be studied in depth. However, first and foremost, Israel’s security must be preserved, and for this, we have to complete the work of undermining and eradicating the basic infrastructure of Hamas,” Herzog says.
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כוחות צה"ל בשטח הרצועה
כוחות צה"ל בשטח הרצועה
IDF forces operating in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The Biden administration has been working to secure a mega-deal that will see ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel normalize. The Kingdom and other Arab countries are seeking the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the deal.
Washington is also working to achieve a deal to secure the release of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 when the group crossed the border into Israel and mounted one of the deadliest attacks on the country in decades.
The hostage deal and the humanitarian pause are seen as instrumental in helping advance conversations on a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had been frozen in the immediate aftermath of the attack but have resumed in recent months.
Talks on the structure of Gaza when the war ends, and how the Palestinian Authority - which exercises limited self-rule in some areas of the West Bank - needs to be reformed to rule the densely populated enclave potentially and identify a pathway for a Palestinian state are all variables in the same equation, according to U.S. officials.
First published: 16:40, 02.17.24
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