Blinken Heads To The Middle East For Talks On Gaza, Regional Security


By Nike Ching

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Riyadh from Monday through Tuesday to participate in regional talks on humanitarian assistance in Gaza, a post-war roadmap for the Palestinian territories, and stability and security in the Middle East. 

“The secretary will discuss ongoing efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza that secures the release of hostages and how it is Hamas that is standing between the Palestinian people and a cease-fire,” according to the State Department. 

The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, a regional alliance of Arab countries bordering the Persian Gulf, will convene in Riyadh next week. 

Blinken will participate in a GCC ministerial meeting to advance coordination on regional security. 

Additionally, Saudi Arabia is hosting a special session of the World Economic Forum in Riyadh on Sunday and Monday. Expected participants include heads of state and top executives from both the public and private sectors. The meeting aims to tackle a broad range of global challenges, including humanitarian issues, climate change, and economic concerns. 

Gaza, post-war roadmap 

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains dire, despite an increase in daily aid and Israel beginning to utilize a northern crossing and Ashdod Port for humanitarian deliveries. 

The United States is collaborating with partners to establish a maritime humanitarian corridor; however, these efforts are insufficient as the entire population of Gaza faces the risk of famine and malnutrition. 

U.S. officials have stated that Washington is committed to advancing lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, including through practical steps aimed at establishing a Palestinian state that exists alongside Israel. 

“The West Bank and Gaza must be reunified under the Palestinian Authority. A revitalized Palestinian Authority is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza and establishing the conditions for stability,” said Barbara Leaf, an sssistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department during a recent briefing. 

Washington also has made clear that Hamas should not play a role in such governance. 

However, analysts say there are many hurdles to the U.S. vision. 

Michael Hanna, the program director at the International Crisis Group, noted that the current Israeli government has shown a “total rejection of the idea of a two-state solution.” Moreover, “the physical reality has changed so dramatically since 1967 that it makes the possibility of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state almost an impossibility.” 

He said “there’s no real assurance” that countries in the Middle East are particularly committed to post-war reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. 

“It’s very difficult for many of these regional parties to engage politically at the moment while the war rages on,” he said. 

Prospects for Saudi-Israel normalization 

The Biden administration continues to work on a potential agreement that could lead to Saudi normalization with Israel, despite what some officials and analysts consider a remote possibility. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the two-state solution and the return of the Palestinian Authority to control Gaza, demands that are widely supported by the international community. 

The Saudis have demanded, as a prerequisite, to see an Israeli commitment to the two-state solution. 

“If Netanyahu’s positions do not change, he will probably not be able to deliver normalization with Saudi Arabia. It may be that a U.S.-Saudi offer for such a normalization will be publicly made, so when Israelis go to the polls, they can take this option into account,” Nimrod Goren, a senior fellow for Israeli affairs at the Middle East Institute, told VOA in an email. 

Alleged rights violations being investigated

Blinken’s upcoming meetings in the Middle East come as the U.S. evaluates new information from the Israeli government to determine whether to blacklist certain Israeli military units. 

These units are accused of violating the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank before the October 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel. 

Critics have pointed out that the State Department’s “slow rolling” in making its decision highlights the special treatment that Israel continues to receive.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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