Blinken to discuss what next for Gaza in visit to Israel and Jordan

US Secretary of State will discuss 'post-conflict options' with Israeli and Arab officials, say analysts

U. S.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from an aircraft during his visit to Israel. Reuters
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit the Middle East for the second time in two weeks amid continuing demands for Israel to stop the war in Gaza.

Mr Blinken is set to visit Israel and Jordan on Friday, where he is expected to discuss possible postwar scenarios in Gaza and the wider Middle East, a western official and regional observers told The National.

US President Joe Biden said this week that there should be a “humanitarian pause” in the war, after repeated Arab demands that the US and other world powers support an immediate ceasefire.

But Washington has not supported demands by its Arab allies to pressure Israel to end its military operation in Gaza.

Political analysts say Mr Blinken is not expected to back Arab states on their call for a ceasefire, but will instead focus on aid and discuss options for how Gaza could be governed if Israel succeeds in destroying Hamas.

Arab states have been unifying their immediate demands ahead of an Arab League emergency summit in Riyadh on November 11, and are likely to push for a renewal of the two-state solution in the aftermath of the war.

Jordan's King Abdullah called for a “political solution to reach just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the two-state solution” during his visit to Qatar this week.

“Unless the operation goes terribly wrong, the Arabs will continue to be practical and push for the maximum they can get once the war ends, which is reactivating the two-state solution,” said a western counter-terrorism official.

In Tel Aviv on Friday, Mr Blinken will focus on aid and “post-conflict options” for Gaza, said Israeli political scientist Gerald Steinberg.

Mr Steinberg said “a rapid transition to a post-Hamas regime is vital”, assuming the Israeli military succeeds in reaching its objectives in Gaza.

He said Mr Blinken will be exploring the possibility of the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas filling any postwar vacuum in Gaza, and the “overall Israeli security responsibility”, if Hamas loses.

Mr Abbas reportedly told Mr Blinken in Amman in mid-October that any postwar role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza has to be part of a wider deal that awards it control of land accorded to a Palestinian state in line with past peace deals with Israel.

This position is also endorsed by Jordan and Egypt.

Jordanian Professor Hasan Al Momani said that Jordan, Egypt and Gulf powers have been engaged in “heavy diplomatic activity to agree on a set of scenarios and ideas” to achieve that outcome.

They have been signalling to Washington the need for an US-supervised grand settlement, somewhat similar to Washington’s drive for Middle East peace after the 1990-1991 Gulf War, said Mr Al Momani, who heads the International Relations and Regional Studies Department at the University of Jordan.

“It is impossible to return to the status quo before October 7,” Prof Al Momani said, acknowledging a powerful right-wing component of the Israeli political system opposed to a two-state solution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might want to continue “reducing the problem to Gaza” but “the Americans are also looking at a post-Netanyahu scenario”, he added.

After visiting Israel and Jordan, Mr Blinken may make other stops in the Middle East, said the State Department, without giving details.

He will then visit Japan, South Korea, and India.

In New Delhi, Mr Blinken will participate in the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, one of India’s highest form of bilateral discussions with its partners.

Taniya Dutta in New Delhi contributed to this report.

Updated: November 03, 2023, 7:25 AM