Blinken Talks a Grand Vision for Mideast Peace but Hits a Wall in Israel

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News Analysis

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken conducted marathon diplomacy around the region, but Israeli leaders, focused on war with Hamas, showed no interest in meeting demands like Palestinian statehood.

The American secretary of state stepping through a doorway inside an aircraft, with an American flag in the foreground and a U.S. service member in the background.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on a military plane as he departed for Bahrain from Israel on Wednesday.Credit…Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein

Edward WongPatrick Kingsley

By Edward Wong and Patrick Kingsley

Edward Wong reported from nine countries while traveling for the past week with the U.S. secretary of state, and Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem.

As Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stood on the tarmac of an airport in Cairo on Thursday before flying back to the United States, he expressed confidence in the support he said he had gotten from leaders across the Middle East for a vision of postwar Gaza, eventually including a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“None of this will happen overnight,” he said at the end of a week of high-stakes diplomacy with 10 governments. “But there is a greater willingness now for countries to make the hard decisions, to do what’s necessary to advance on that track.”

But however much ground Mr. Blinken may have gained in his conversations with Arab and Turkish leaders, the one government that matters most in the equation — Israel’s — has given no sign that it is aligned with the Biden administration’s long-term goals. The Israelis are interested in forging full diplomatic relations with powerful Arab states like Saudi Arabia, but they remain publicly dismissive of a critical American and Arab demand: the creation of a Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides are focused on the war in Gaza against Hamas. “Today, no one can speak with Israelis about a Palestinian state,” Danny Danon, a senior lawmaker from Mr. Netanyahu’s party, said in an interview. “Today, we have to look at stability, security.”

Over the course of his trip, Mr. Blinken repeatedly said that now is the moment to forge a political solution, however difficult and ambitious, to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The burst of violence on Oct. 7, when an estimated 1,200 people were killed in a Hamas-led attack, and the failure that day of the Israeli government to protect its citizens, show that Israel cannot rely solely on its security apparatus to guard its safety, other U.S. officials say.

Image

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, in Lusail, Qatar, before a meeting with Mr. Blinken on Sunday.Credit…Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein

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