US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken laid out a US administration’s strategy towards the Middle East region, announcing a three-pronged approach to address the Iranian nuclear threat.
Blinken said that the US has a genuine national security interest in promoting the Abraham Accords, recognizing that there are illusions that this can be done “quickly or easily.”
He asserted that a two-state solution, based on the 1967 lines, remains the best way to achieve the goal of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace.
The top diplomat was speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Summit, markings the 75th anniversary of the US-Israeli “indispensable” partnership, which extends to developing the clean energy technologies of the future, producing vaccines, and charting the future of space exploration.
Blinken recalled part of the historical milestones in the relationship between the two parties and confirmed that Biden’s administration is working to strengthen these ties.
Blinken said that the world is “genuinely living through an inflection point, a point that comes around every six or seven generations,” where the changes are “so profound,” stressing that the US-Israel relationship is underwritten by Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security.
“That commitment is non-negotiable; it is ironclad,” he asserted.
He recalled that his country provides $3.3 billion in foreign military financing to Israel each year, an additional $500 million in funding for missile defense, and tens of millions more for new counter-drone and anti-tunneling technologies.
The fund comes with the 2016 memorandum of understanding negotiated by the Obama-Biden administration, said Blinken, adding that Washington also delivered an additional $1 billion in funding to replenish supplies for Israel’s Iron Dome.
Blinken touched on expanding the joint military exercises and conducting collaborative research and development on advanced military capabilities, working together on cutting-edge defense systems, including Israel’s new laser-focused Iron Beam, noting that “America is more secure when Israel is strong.”
– Iranian danger
Blinken rejected “constant efforts to delegitimize Israel” aimed at “undermining or isolating Israel’s rightful place on the international stage,” including “anti-Israel efforts to exclude and target it at the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council, and other forums around the world.”
“There is no danger that Israel faces that is graver than the one posed by the Iranian regime,” which “routinely threatens to wipe Israel off the map” and continues to provide weapons to terrorists and proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, who reject Israel’s right to exist.”
He also indicated that Iran is arming Russian forces with drones to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy their infrastructure in exchange for sophisticated Russian weaponry.
Blinken firmly stressed that Washington would continue its “economic pressure and deterrence reinforce our diplomacy. ”
“If Iran rejects the path of diplomacy, then – as President Biden has repeatedly made clear – all options are on the table to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”
He explained the three-pronged approach based on “diplomacy, economic pressure, deterrence,” including “strengthening Israel’s military capabilities – has bipartisan support, and it puts us in the strongest possible position to address the Iranian nuclear threat.”
– Abraham Accords
The US official stated that Biden’s administration is advancing Israel’s security by deepening “Israel’s relationships with its neighbors to advance our goal of regional integration and de-escalation,” describing it as a “cornerstone of his Middle East policy.”
He revealed that the State Department will soon create a “new position to further our diplomacy and engagement with governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, all working toward a more peaceful and a more connected region.”
“We are now working hard behind the scenes, leading with diplomacy to continue the momentum,” after Saudi Arabia and Oman unlocked their airspace to civilian flights to and from Tel Aviv.
Lebanon and Israel completed “a historic agreement last fall to establish their permanent maritime boundary.”
He said he will visit Jeddah and Riyadh this week to talk with “our Saudi and Gulf counterparts about a more integrated, prosperous, and stable region.”
– Two-state solution
Blinken acknowledged that “integration and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians,” considering that Israel’s relations with its partners should “advance the well-being of the Palestinian people and the prospects for a two-state solution.”
He asserted that a two-state solution, based on the 1967 lines, with “mutually agreed swaps – remains the best way to achieve our goal of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace, with equal measures of security, freedom, justice, opportunity, and dignity.”
Blinken believed a “two-state solution is vital to preserving Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” reiterating de-escalation and “refraining from unilateral measures that increase tensions.”
He addressed the recent attack at the border with Egypt, which resulted in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers, saying it is “another tragic reminder of these daily dangers.”
“Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle,” said Blinken warning against any “move toward annexation of the West Bank” or “disruption of the historic status quo at the holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes, and the evictions of families.”