Blinken Calls Abbas to Talk U.S.-Palestinian Relations, Also Speaks With Israel's Lapid

The rare phone call to the Palestinian president comes after recent increased direct contacts between Israeli and Palestinian leaders

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in May.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in May. Credit: Pool / Reuters

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a rare phone call on Monday.

The two "discussed the importance of strengthening the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, as well as the need to improve quality of life for Palestinians in tangible ways." They also discussed the "challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and the need for reform," according to a State Department readout of the call.

The readout also repeated the Biden administration's position on the conflict, saying "Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live safely and securely, and enjoy equal measures of security, freedom, and prosperity."

It also reaffirmed the U.S. administration’s "commitment to a two-state solution." The Palestinian readout, meanwhile, noted that Blinken stressed the administration's rejection of settlement activity and settler violence toward the Palestinians, as well as the practice of home evictions and housing demolitions.

Blinken also spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Monday, reaffirming Washington's commitment to Israel's security in addition to discussing Israeli-Palestinian issues, threats posed by Iran, and risks of further Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The State Department has reserved its more direct public criticisms of Israel regarding these actions, including a harsh phone call between Blinken and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in December concerning settlement activity in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Atarot.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz, last June.Credit: Jacquelyn Martin /Pool / REUTERS

Several weeks later, Israeli police had carried out a demolition order and arrested over a dozen people in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — an event that prompted Abbas to call on the Biden administration to "take responsibility and intervene immediately to stop these crimes." U.S. Jewish establishment groups directly appealed to Israeli officials earlier this week urging them to take further action to prevent settler violence.

The Palestinian readout also noted the Biden administration's commitment to reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Biden originally planned to reopen the consulate as part of the restoration of ties between the U.S. and the PA, which were cut off during the Trump presidency. The consulate historically served not only the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who reside in Jerusalem, but also Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who required U.S. consular services.

However, Israeli officials close to the Biden administration have said that the U.S. has been forced to slow down its plans due to a separate Biden priority: helping the fragile Israeli governing coalition survive its first few months in office and preventing another election. In the time the administration has stalled, Israeli and Republican opposition has grown more vocal and emboldened.

The Blinken-Abbas call comes after recent increased direct contacts between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Abbas and Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh last week. The meetings covered economic problems in the West Bank and initiatives to boost the Palestinian economy, as well as security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Gantz earlier in the day said that the Palestinian Authority's weakened status threatens Israel's security, noting how American officials focus on what Israel is doing to promote regional stability in every bilateral meeting in which he participates.

Monday's phone call also follows Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki's criticism of Biden for moving too slowly to reverse the Trump administration's actions against Palestinians while neglecting to pressure Israel to reverse track on actions endangering a potential two-state solution.

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