June 15, 2024

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US shifts focus on Gaza to what follows an end to the war

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Antony Blinken returned to the Middle East on Friday with a publicly declared mission of convincing Israel to use restraint in its war in Gaza and to press for humanitarian pauses. But the US secretary of state arrived with another goal as well: to start talks on what will follow the war.

The increasingly bloody conflict, now four weeks old, has refocused Washington’s attention on reviving a diplomatic process towards a settlement of the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The United States is convinced . . . and I think we are only reinforced in that conviction since October 7 that the best path, maybe even the only path . . . is two states for two peoples,” Blinken said in Tel Aviv after meeting with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior leaders.

The push to come up with a viable endgame for the conflict has gained new urgency in Washington in recent days as US political support for Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has started to wane.

On Thursday, Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the Senate’s foreign relations committee, said Israel’s offensive in Gaza was causing “an unacceptable level of civilian harm and does not appear likely to achieve the goal of permanently ending the threat from Hamas”.

Other leading Democrats, including Senator Dick Durbin, have made similar criticisms, while Senator Ben Cardin, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, also raised the question of what will follow the conflict.

“We don’t know how long the campaign is going to be, but it will be a period where we’re going to pull back [and] you have to have something in place,” Cardin said.

Like most of his predecessors, president Joe Biden endorsed the idea of creating two separate states — one for Israel, one for the Palestinians — when he took office, but he put little focus on the issue; other international flashpoints such as China, Afghanistan and Russia were higher on his foreign policy agenda.

But as…

2023-11-04 05:00:48

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