May 25, 2021 - World

Blinken in Israel to push for stabilizing Gaza ceasefire

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) is greeted by Israeli Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskelas, as he steps off the plane upon arrival at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, May 25

Israeli Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskelas greeting Secretary of State Antony Blinkenas he steps off the plane upon arrival at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken landed in Israel on Tuesday, the first stop on his first trip to the Middle East since assuming office.

Why it matters: State Department officials, who are realistic about the current low chances of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, say the visit will focus on stabilizing the Gaza ceasefire and start discussions on humanitarian aid and reconstruction.

Driving the news: Blinken was scheduled to visit Jerusalem and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

  • Later, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah in the central West Bank.

The state of play: State Department officials said the U.S. wants to push forward with the reconstruction of Gaza and humanitarian relief efforts in a way that will not benefit Hamas.

  • They said the U.S. wants to work with both the UN and the Palestinian Authority on those efforts.
  • The Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza, but the U.S. hopes the reconstruction efforts will help in returning the Palestinian Authority to Gaza in some form.

What they're saying: "Hamas will not have veto power over the reconstruction efforts," a State Department official said.

  • "We can’t fully guarantee it but we will do everything we can to make sure the assistance will go to the people of Gaza and not to Hamas."

Of note: Blinken will meet on Tuesday night in Jerusalem with opposition leader Yair Lapid, who still holds the mandate for forming a new government.

What's next: On Wednesday, Blinken will travel to Amman, Jordan, and Cairo, Egypt, for meetings with King Abdullah and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

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