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Blinken Has Promised More Aid For Palestinians, Continued Support For Israel


Secretary of State Antony Blinken has his work cut out for him in the Middle East. He is trying to make sure a cease-fire holds between Israel and Hamas. And he says he wants to help restore, in his words, hope, respect and trust between Israelis and Palestinians. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Blinken says he had a busy and productive day in Jerusalem, where he met Israeli officials, and in Ramallah, where he sought to revive relations with the Palestinians. He said the U.S. is on track to provide $360 million in aid to the Palestinians and to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.


ANTONY BLINKEN: That's an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people.

KELEMEN: The Trump administration had closed the consulate and cut off aid to pressure the Palestinians to accept its ideas on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he's glad to see the, quote, "actions of a hurtful few come to an end."


MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Non-English language spoken).

KELEMEN: "We thank the U.S. administration's commitment to a two-state solution and the maintenance of the status quo in Jerusalem," Abbas said, calling for an end to planned evictions of Palestinians from their homes there. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, but talks on that seem a long way off. Blinken is focused on the immediate humanitarian crisis.


BLINKEN: And then looking to see actions on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians that will take down tension and try to remove or minimize some of the potential catalysts for a renewed cycle of violence.

KELEMEN: There have been repeated military clashes between Israel and Hamas since Hamas took control of Gaza 15 years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remembers that during the 2014 conflict, Blinken - then an Obama administration official - helped to rush U.S. military aid to Israel.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And you are giving meaning to this now again with replenishments of Iron Dome interceptors that save civilian lives on both sides.

KELEMEN: Netanyahu says if Hamas fires more rockets, Israel's response will be, in his words, "very powerful."


NETANYAHU: And we have discussed ways of how to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament.

KELEMEN: The U.S. doesn't talk to Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, but Egypt does and played a key role in negotiating the cease-fire. Blinken travels to Cairo tomorrow and then on to Jordan.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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