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US, Israel to promote civil projects for Palestinians if incitement stops

CM 25/05/2021 1

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The US and Israel agreed to work together on projects to improve Palestinians’ quality of life, on the condition that the Palestinian Authority stop actions against Israel.
During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Jerusalem Tuesday, he and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi agreed to form a working group “to implement civil projects in Judea and Samaria,” the Foreign Ministry said.
At the same time, the US will demand that the Palestinians stop taking unilateral action against Israel in international institutions and halt incitement, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Working on economic growth in Gaza and the West Bank “will help foster a more stable environment and benefits Palestinians and Israelis,” Blinken said.
The ministers also discussed a joint enforcement mechanism through which to transfer aid to the Gaza Strip without it reaching Hamas, and to ensure that Hamas cannot re-arm itself.
“We will work with our partners… to ensure Hamas doesn’t benefit from the reconstruction assistance,” Blinken said.
Ashkenazi presented Israel’s demand that Hamas return missing soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and Israeli civilian captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
The foreign minister welcomed Blinken at the airport on Tuesday morning, and in their subsequent meeting praised the US-Israel “strategic, bipartisan partnership based on shared values between the two countries.”
He also thanked Blinken for US support for Israel and its right to defend itself during Operation Guardian of the Walls.
“We must all make an effort to weaken Hamas and build a camp of moderate countries and factors in the region to promote coexistence, security, stability and economic growth,” he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his appreciation for the Biden administration supporting Israel’s right of self-defense during Operation Guardian of the Walls, following his meeting with Blinken.
“If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful,” Netanyahu warned.
The prime minister said he and Blinken “discussed ways to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament with weapons and means of aggression.” 
Blinken said that US President Joe Biden “made crystal clear throughout the violence that the US fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks such as Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately against civilians.”
Netanyahu and Blinken discussed Israel’s security needs, including replenishing the Iron Dome.
Blinken said that building on the outcome of the operation requires “recognition that losses on both sides were profound. Casualties are reduced to numbers, but behind every number is a human being…as the Talmud teaches to lose a life is to lose the whole world whether that life is Palestinian or Israeli.”
They also discussed the humanitarian conditions in Gaza, including the return of Israeli MIAs and civilians in Hamas captivity.
Blinken spoke out against the recent wave of antisemitism in the US.
“In our own country we witnessed a shocking eruption of antisemitic attacks,” Blinken said following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “As President Biden said they ‘are despicable and they must stop.’”
Blinken quoted a tweet Biden sent on Monday, which states: “The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop. I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.”
Netanyahu thanked Blinken and Biden for their statements “against antisemitism masked as anti-Zionism.”
“You took a clear position, a strong position. i think all decent people everywhere appreciate that stance,” Netanyahu stated.
The prime minister commended Biden, saying he was “absolutely correct when he said you’re not going to get peace until Israel is recognized as an independent Jewish state. That is the key, and I couldn’t agree more with President Biden.”
As for Iran, Netanyahu expressed hope that the US will not return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 Iran deal is called. 
The Biden administration seeks to return to that agreement, if Iran agrees to return to full compliance, and then negotiate a “longer and stronger” follow-on deal. Blinken’s visit comes two days before a fifth round of indirect negotiations between the US and Iran in Vienna.
Netanyahu said the JCPOA “paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy.”
“Israel always reserves the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction and committed to getting a weapon of mass destruction to that end,” he added.
Blinken said that the US is “consulting closely with Israel, as we did today, on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around a potential return to Iran nuclear agreement.” 
“At the same time,” Blinken added, the US and Israel “work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.”
Antony Blinken landed in Israel Tuesday morning for his first trip to the region, with ensuring the Israel-Hamas truce that went into effect on Friday holds, and that the reconstruction of the Strip is carried out while bypassing the terrorist organization.
The secretary of state will also meet with President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Blinken’s trip will continue to Ramallah and Egypt, which brokered the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, and Jordan.
While in Ramallah, Blinken plans to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and other top PA officials. Next, in Cairo, he will meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. His final stop, in Amman, will be for meetings with King Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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