Top US Diplomat Includes Israeli, Palestinian Civil Society Meetings in Mideast Tour
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, in Ramallah on the West Bank Tuesday afternoon, the US secretary’s final destination in his three-stop Middle East tour, after meetings with Egyptian and Israeli leaders in Cairo and Jerusalem, respectively. Blinken and the Palestinian leaders were expected to discuss ways to de-escalate Israeli-Palestinian violence, restore full security coordination between the sides, and build support for a two-state solution.
On his arrival in Ramallah ahead of the meetings with Abbas and Shtayyeh, Blinken met with representatives of Palestinian civil society organizations.
This followed a meeting Tuesday morning in Jerusalem with representatives of Israeli civil society organizations. The daily newspaper Haaretz reported sources in the US Embassy as saying that meetings between the US secretary of state and civil society leaders in a democracy are unusual, but that Blinken wished to convey solidarity with Israeli groups fighting for equality, minority rights, and a shared society at a time when they feel increasingly under threat by far-right politicians in the current government.
Blinken met with the leaders of six Israeli civil society organizations: Israel Gay Youth (IGY), which advocates for the rights of the LGBTQ community; FeelBeit, a Jewish-Arab arts and culture center on the boundary between west and east Jerusalem; Netzach, a school network that prepares ultra-Orthodox youth for university studies; Loop, an organization that helps young Arabs integrate into Israel’s high-tech industry; Tikkun Olam Makers, which helps people with disabilities; and the Regional Organization for Peace, Economics and Security (ROPES), which promotes Israeli-Arab peace through people-to-people programs.