Reasons for optimism after Antony Blinken’s diplomatic stunt.
Blinken urged Israeli leaders to implement temporary pauses.
Blinken met with representatives of Israel’s Arab neighbors.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been traveling across the Middle East, attempting to manage a situation that is on the verge of spiraling out of control for the past three days.
His itinerary included stops in Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Iraq, and Turkey, each presenting its unique set of challenges and reasons for concern. The primary challenge faced by the U.S. Secretary of State is the attempt to find middle ground in a situation where it currently seems to be lacking.
During his visit to Israel, Blinken urged Israeli leaders to implement temporary pauses in hostilities to facilitate humanitarian aid and encourage hostage releases, a proposal that the Israeli prime minister promptly rejected.
The following day, Blinken met with representatives of Israel’s Arab neighbors, all of whom called for an immediate ceasefire. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, accused Israel of committing war crimes.
Simultaneously in the United States, President Joe Biden expressed optimism when asked about progress in securing humanitarian pauses. However, this optimism contrasted sharply with the prevailing mood in the Middle East.
To underscore the tension in the region, Blinken’s Sunday stops were shrouded in secrecy. He traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a convoy of armored vehicles and vans, escorted by soldiers from the Palestinian Palace Guard.
Arriving in Iraq under the cover of darkness, Blinken and his diplomatic entourage donned body armor and helmets for a brief helicopter ride from Baghdad airport to the U.S. embassy. From there, they proceeded to meet with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani.
On Monday, Blinken is set to meet with Turkish officials, just a day after Turkish President Recep Erdogan recalled Turkey’s ambassador to Israel and announced that he was no longer willing to engage with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We have erased him, thrown him out,” the Turkish leader declared.
Every time Blinken manages to address one issue, it seems another one emerges. When questioned at Baghdad airport whether he shared the U.S. president’s optimism about the likelihood of Israel agreeing to pauses and the Arab nations accepting that a ceasefire is currently unrealistic, Blinken responded affirmatively to both.
The U.S. is continuing to work with the Israelis to address concerns regarding the “specifics and practicalities” of implementing humanitarian pauses.
As for the Arab nations, while there are differences of opinion on a ceasefire, everyone Blinken spoke with believed that humanitarian pauses could facilitate hostage releases, enhance aid distribution in Gaza, and expedite the evacuation of foreign citizens from Gaza.
However, for the time being, it appears that not everyone is receptive to what Blinken is proposing, partly due to domestic pressures in both Israel and the Arab nations that are pulling the two sides apart.
Protesters in Israel are demanding more government action to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas, while pro-Palestinian demonstrators have rallied in various countries across the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S., urging an end to the conflict.
While Blinken’s trip may have the positive aspect of engaging with all parties and preventing further escalation of the conflict, it is clear that the region remains fraught with challenges, and finding a resolution is no simple task.