US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his tour of the Middle East today, after visiting four countries where public divisions between the United States and Israel have emerged, possibly at their highest level since the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas last October.
The tour highlighted strained relations between Israel and its main international ally, the United States, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejecting a ceasefire proposal backed by the US and other regional powers.
Blinken returns to Washington after what can be described as a diplomatic setback, as Netanyahu's steadfast refusal to accept a proposed ceasefire plan underscored the deep divide between the two allies. Despite this setback, Blinken and other US officials remain optimistic about progress on key goals, including improving humanitarian conditions for Palestinian civilians, securing the release of hostages held by Hamas, preparing for the post-conflict reconstruction of Gaza and preventing an escalation of hostilities.
Blinken stressed the need for continued negotiations, acknowledging the complexity inherent in all diplomatic processes. However, Netanyahu's assertion of Israel's determination to achieve "absolute victory" over Hamas, along with his dismissal of Hamas's counter-proposal as unrealistic, will further increase the challenges facing diplomacy in the region.
Blinken's visit to Israel came shortly after Hamas submitted a counter-proposal to the ceasefire framework unveiled late last month, outlining a three-phase plan to de-escalate the conflict. Despite initial optimism expressed during his meeting with Qatari officials about the potential for negotiations based on the proposal, Netanyahu's sharp rejection ended all further talk.
Tensions between the United States and Israel have been simmering for months, exacerbated by Netanyahu's public rejection of a cease-fire plan that the US considers worthy of a starting point for further negotiations. There were still disagreements, however, the story is starting to spread more and more in the Middle Eastern media that everything is staged and that the disagreements between Israel and the USA are just an actor's play. US influence on Israel is key to stopping this monstrous and bloody war.