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Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, intensified his efforts in diplomacy on Saturday by seeking backing for developing a plan for the future of Gaza post-conflict. This is his second urgent trip to the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that failing to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could harm future peace agreements with the Palestinians, Netanyahu met with Jordanian and other Arab officials in Amman. These officials continue to be resentful and distrustful of Israel as it escalates its conflict with Hamas.
Blinken’s initial meeting was with Lebanon’s interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose country is currently facing severe economic and political turmoil. Lebanon is also known for being the base of Hezbollah, an Iranian-supported group that is hostile towards Israel.
The United States is deeply worried that Hezbollah, who has already increased their rocket and cross-border assaults on northern Israel, will become more involved in the ongoing conflict.
The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a significant speech following the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7th, which initiated the war. However, he did not predict an increased role for his group, despite stating that they were not affected by the U.S.’s efforts to discourage them.
Neither Blinken nor Mikati addressed the media at the start of their meeting at a hotel in Amman. Blinken also did not make any public statements as he took photos with the foreign minister of Qatar, a country that holds significant influence as a mediator with Hamas. Qatar has played a crucial role in negotiating the release of some hostages held by Hamas and persuading them to allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza and enter Egypt.
Blinken had a planned meeting with the leader of the United Nations organization responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has reported that many of its employees have been casualties of Israeli airstrikes and is facing a severe shortage of essential items such as food, medicine, and fuel.
Afterwards, Blinken was scheduled to have discussions with the foreign ministers of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the leader of the PLO executive committee. All sides have condemned Israel’s methods against Hamas, which they believe amounts to illegal collective punishment of the Palestinian population.
Blinken will also meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose nation recently withdrew its ambassador from Israel and instructed the Israeli envoy to refrain from returning until the Gaza situation has been resolved.
However, the Arab countries have not yet accepted American proposals for them to take on a more significant role in resolving the crisis. They have expressed anger over the number of civilian casualties caused by Israeli military actions, but also view Gaza as primarily an issue created by Israel.
The Jordanian foreign ministry stated that Ayman al-Safadi, the Jordanian Foreign Minister, called for a meeting with Blinken and other Arab representatives to discuss ways to end the Israeli aggression on Gaza and prevent further humanitarian crisis.
However, American officials are convinced that even minimal support from Arab nations will play a crucial role in not only improving the deteriorating situation in Gaza, but also in preparing for a potential replacement for Hamas as the governing power in the region, should Israel successfully eliminate it.
Unfortunately, there are very few proposals for how Gaza’s governance should be structured in the future. Despite this, Blinken and other U.S. officials have put forth a general plan that could involve a revived Palestinian Authority (which has not had a presence in the area since 2007), international organizations, and a possible peacekeeping presence. However, it should be noted that these ideas have not been received with much enthusiasm.