US Secretary of State Antony said the US is pressing Israel to curtail construction in Judea and Samaria, and urged Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out demolition orders on illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem, or from evicting Arab squatters from homes illegally occupied in the capital.
Blinken also downplayed disagreements between the Biden administration and Jerusalem on a new nuclear deal with Iran, telling reporters Sunday afternoon that there is “no daylight” between the two countries on the “fundamental” approach vis-à-vis Tehran.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Blinken said the Biden administration and Israel both agree “that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
“Whether there is a return to the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – or not, that principle will not change, nor will our commitment to it.”
The Secretary of State called his meeting with Bennett “very productive”, saying the two “covered a lot of ground”.
Blinken emphasized Biden’s vow to help Israel replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system, saying the president “delivered” on that pledge, “signing a funding bill that included one billion dollars for this crucial defense system.”
Turning to the Israeli-Arab conflict, Blinken said that during his meeting with Bennett, he reiterated US support both for improving conditions in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip, and for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
“I made clear the conviction that the United States has that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, and dignity, and that is one of the reasons why we support a negotiated two-state solution.”
"We are encouraged to see members of the Prime Minister's cabinet meeting with Palestinian leaders, including Defense Minister Gantz."
"Our administration is also rebuilding our relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, something I'll continue to do today in Ramallah with President Abbas, and in east Jerusalem."
Blinken hinted that the Biden administration would view Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria or law enforcement activity against squatters and illegal housing in eastern Jerusalem as provocative and liable to “raise tensions” during the upcoming holiday season.
The Secretary of State urged Israel to refrain from expanding Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, and to avoid either demolishing illegal Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem, or from evicting Arab families squatting on Jewish-owned property in the Shimon Hatzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood – a frequent hotspot and scene of regular Arab protests.
"Today we also discussed ways to foster a peaceful Passover, Ramadan, and Easter across Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, and particular in Jerusalem."
“That means working to prevent actions on all sides that could raise tensions, including settlement expansion, settler violence and incitement to violence, demolitions, payments to individuals convicted of terrorism, evictions of families from homes that they’ve lived in for decades. It is a message that I will be underscoring in all of my meetings on my trip.”