WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged continued US commitment to both Israel’s security and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict on Monday, but warned the expansion of Jewish settlements would be an obstacle to peace.
In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, Blinken also cautioned that moves toward annexation of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or that disrupting the status quo at holy sites would hurt the prospects for a two-state solution. He didn’t name the specific holy sites he was referring to.
“Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope that we seek,” Blinken said to muted response from the audience.
“Likewise, any move toward annexation of the West Bank, de facto or de jure, disruption of the historic status quo at holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes and the evictions of families that have lived in those homes for generations damage prospects for two -states. They also undermine the basic daily dignity to which all people are entitled.”
The top US diplomat drew widespread applause when he outlined the longstanding American commitment to Israel and said all options were on the table when it came to preventing Israel’s No. 1 enemy, Iran, from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
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Washington would continue to work toward helping Israel integrate into the region as a means of enhancing security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East, Blinken said.
He stressed the importance of normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Blinken made an oblique reference to the contentious judicial reform proposal that led to massive protests in Israel in recent months. US President Joe Biden publicly opposed the proposal, which would give the Israeli government greater control over appointments to the country’s Supreme Court.
“We’ll continue to express our support for core democratic principles, including a separation of powers, checks and balances, and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Doina Chiacu; editing by Rami Ayyub and Bernadette Baum)
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