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Palestinian state 'best way to ensure lasting peace,' Blinken tells Israeli leaders

On fifth visit to Israel since Oct. 7, secretary of state says ‘a lot of work to be done’ for hostage deal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Feb. 7, 2024 (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his fifth visit to Israel since Hamas' incursion on Oct. 7, 2023, met with several Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog this week.

Blinken had an extended one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu after his arrival in Israel. He reportedly told Netanyahu that the United States is concerned about Israel’s plan to expand military operations into Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip near Egypt, over the humanitarian impact such a move would have. 

It is estimated that around 1 million Gaza residents have fled to Rafah from the northern Gaza Strip and the area around Khan Younis since Israel started its ground operations. 

Blinken reiterated the U.S. Biden administration’s position that a two-state solution is necessary for peace in the region. 

He said that a Palestinian state is “the best way to ensure lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike and greater integration for the region.” 

Following the private meeting, Blinken met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a security assessment, along with Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi, Mossad Chief David Barnea, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, Military Secretary Avi Gil, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, members of the War Cabinet and other top advisors. 

Halevi’s participation was reportedly approved after a private meeting between Blinken and Halevi was vetoed by Netanyahu. 

After the security briefing, Blinken met with President Herzog at the official President's House in Jerusalem. in Jerusalem, where the two leaders discussed recent developments in the hostage proposal negotiations and U.S. efforts to achieve further normalization agreements. 

“There's a lot of work to be done,” Blinken told Herzog, “but we are very much focused on doing that work and, hopefully, being able to resume the release of hostages that was interrupted so many months ago.” 

Herzog said the nation of Israel is praying for the return of the hostages. 

“We are yearning and praying for the immediate release of our hostages,” Herzog said. “We want to see them back as soon as possible. The situation is dire. And clearly, Hamas is violating every rule of human behavior in this respect.” 

The Israeli president also told Blinken that Israel is doing what it can to facilitate the transfer of aid into Gaza and to minimize civilian casualties. 

Blinken said that Hamas is responsible for many civilian casualties due to its 'human shield' strategy.

“There are so many innocent men, women, and children who are suffering as a result of the attacks perpetrated by Hamas, and now being caught in a crossfire of Hamas’s making,” Blinken said. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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