United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, a day after Arab leaders publicly asked him to push Israel towards a ceasefire as the death toll approaches 10,000.
The mounting casualties have put the US’s diplomatic efforts under further scrutiny by its Arab allies, who have grown increasingly frustrated by the worsening humanitarian situation in the besieged Palestinian territory.
Israel, which continues with its military offensive on Gaza, killed more than 50 people in air raids late on Saturday.
During a news conference in Amman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi stressed that Arab countries want an immediate ceasefire, warning that “the whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come.
“We don’t accept that this is self-defence,” Safadi said, referring to Israel’s monthlong assault on Gaza that has killed at least 9,488 Palestinians, more than a third of them children.
“It cannot be justified under any pretext and it will not bring Israel security, it will not bring the region peace.”
Rare public divide
In a rare public divide with his Jordanian counterpart, Blinken said the US was against a ceasefire because it would give Hamas more breathing room.
“It is our view now that a ceasefire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat,” what it did on October 7, said Blinken, referring to the group’s surprise attack into southern Israel that killed some 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Blinken tried to walk a diplomatic tightrope during his third visit to the region within a month, pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a temporary “humanitarian pause” and urging for the protection of Palestinian civilians, while also contending with Arab leaders who are urging for a full ceasefire.
Blinken’s “humanitarian pause” call was deemed too weak by Arab leaders, and dismissed by Netanyahu who insisted Israel’s offensive must continue at “full force”.
“I made clear that we are continuing full force and that Israel refuses a temporary ceasefire which does not include the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Saturday.
Israel seemingly drove this message home by bombing multiple United Nations-run schools and refugee centres during Blinken’s visit. The most recent – a strike on the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza early on Sunday – killed at least 47 people.
‘Yes to war’
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said: “It’s clear there is unhappiness about how the United States is handling this.”
“If this crisis continues, especially [on] the humanitarian side, and if this crisis brings us back full circle to the old containment policy of pre-October 7, I think the American role here, forget right or wrong, but it will not be seen as effective,” said Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president.
Al Jazeera’s political analyst Marwan Bishara argued that Blinken’s calls for a “humanitarian pause” without a more serious push to rein in Israel were hollow.
“What does a humanitarian pause mean,” asked Bishara. “It means you give us a few minutes in order to start bombing again. How is that helpful? How does that bring peace? How does that re-establish credibility? How does that end the bloodshed?”
“When Blinken says ‘no ceasefire’ again and again and again, he is saying ‘yes’ to war,” Bishara added. “Blinken has embraced and parroted the Israeli position that we are going with the war until the end.”
Meeting with Abbas
Blinken was set for another diplomatic test on Sunday as he prepared to meet Abbas in Ramallah, his first trip to the occupied West Bank since the war began.
He previously put forward the idea of the Palestinian Authority (PA) playing a future governance role in Gaza as a way out of the conflict.
“At some point, what would make the most sense is for an effective and revitalised Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza,” Blinken said.
He is also set to visit Turkey on Sunday and meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been rebuilding relations with Israel before the Gaza war.
Their ties seem to deteriorate due to Erdogan’s fierce pro-Palestine stance and admonishment of Israel’s war-time conduct.
“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying on Saturday as Ankara recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv.
Israel’s foreign minister responded to the move saying Erdogan had chosen to “take the side” of Hamas over Israel.
The Turkish government’s decision to recall its ambassador while the State of Israel is in the midst of a war of self-defense imposed on it by a terrorist organization worst than ISIS, is another step by the Turkish president that sides with the Hamas terrorist organization.… pic.twitter.com/uPsOKt0Huh
— Lior Haiat 🇮🇱 (@LiorHaiat) November 4, 2023