Blinken in Israel affirms support for Palestinian statehood

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STORY: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday in the midst of some of the worst violence in months between Israelis and Palestinians and called on both sides to tamp down the bitter tensions.

BLINKEN: "It's the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them. To work toward a day when people no longer feel afraid in their communities, in their homes, in their places of worship."

Last week a Palestinian gunman opened fire in Jerusalem, killing seven Israelis.

That attack came after the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and Israel responded with air strikes on the blockaded enclave.

A day before the rocket fire, Israeli security forces carried out a raid on the West Bank city of Jenin that left 10 Palestinians dead.

Blinken met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and both men underscored the "ironclad" alliance between their two countries. Netanyahu praised American president Joe Biden's long support for Israel.

NETANYAHU: "This alliance is something that President Biden is committed to. I've known him for 40 years. He's a true friend of Israel. A true champion of this alliance, as are you."

But Blinken also affirmed the U.S. administration's support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would create a Palestinian state in territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war - a message Netanyahu may find hard to swallow.

BLINKEN: "President Biden remains fully committed to that goal. We continued to believe that the best way to achieve it is through preserving and then realizing the vision of two states. As I said to the prime minister, anything that moves us away from that vision is, in our judgement, detrimental to Israel's long-term security and it's long-term identity as a Jewish and democratic state."

Netanyahu has long disdained resuming direct peace talks with Palestinians, and his new hardline government includes partners who oppose Palestinian statehood.

Further complicating efforts at negotiations, Palestinians are politically divided between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who favors diplomacy, and rival Hamas Islamists, who are sworn to Israel's destruction.

The last round of U.S.-sponsored talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.

Blinken was due to meet Abbas on Tuesday.