Blinken visits Middle East as Israel-US relationship weakens

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to the Middle East on March 20th for his sixth visit since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas, keeping post-Gaza war regional “architecture” in mind, according to the Arab Weekly plus agencies

“We have been doing a lot of work since January, particularly with our Arab partners, and we will be pursuing those conversations, as well as discussing what is the right architecture for lasting regional peace,” Blinken said at a news conference in Manila prior to his arrival in Cairo.

He will meet with Saudi leaders in Jeddah and Egyptian leaders in Cairo to discuss an agreement, as well as efforts to get more aid into Gaza, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Blinken circulated a draft of a UN resolution for an immediate ceasefire in resumed peace talks in Qatar. He urged “the need for an immediate and durable ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, enable the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, and alleviate suffering.”

READ: Biden says he hopes for Gaza ceasefire before Ramadan

He added that he would also pursue conversations on arrangements for governance, security and redevelopment of post-conflict Gaza.

Director of Institute for Intelligence and Special Occasions Mossad David Barnea began a new round of talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators on March 18th, as well. Qatar’s spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry Majed al-Ansari said he was “cautiously optimistic” but it was “too early to announce any successes.”

Ansari said they were expecting a counter-proposal to be presented to Hamas after both sides rejected previous offers, adding that technical talks would continue. Talks of a six-week truce between Israel and Hamas allowing for a temporary pause in fighting and the return of each side’s respective hostages have yet to be realised, as neither side can seem to agree on proposals after six months of combat.

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had made a previous attempt at negotiations with Hamas top official Ismail Haniyeh in Paris on February 28th. A statement from French President Emmanuel Macron read that the meeting made “efforts to release Israelis held by Hamas and to reach an agreement for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.”

READ: “Incompetent” Netanyahu brushes off US scrutiny

On March 20th, a World Bank food security report warned that, with the rise of hunger levels, famine is expected between mid-March and May. Blinken referred to such warnings, saying that everyone in Gaza was now suffering “severe levels of acute food insecurity.”

Blinken is not scheduled to visit Israel on this trip, despite his multiple visits following since October 7th. US-Israeli talks are however expected in Washington in the coming days.

Tensions between US President Joe Biden’s administration and that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached their peak on March 19th, when Netanyahu told lawmakers that he was “determined” to continue offensive action, rebuffing Biden’s urging Israel not to do so.

This also followed comments from Majority Leader of the US Senate Chuck Schumer, who referred to Netanyahu as a “major obstacle to peace” and demanded new elections in Israel.

Nonetheless, the alliance between Israel and the US persists, as the latter continues to supply Israel with weapons and shields it against calls for a permanent ceasefire at the UN Security Council.

The Arab Weekly/agencies

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