Biden to keep Jerusalem embassy but seek Palestinian state, nominee Antony Blinken says

Mr Blinken indicated that Mr Biden would try harder to pursue a separate Palestinian state.
Mr Blinken indicated that Mr Biden would try harder to pursue a separate Palestinian state.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President-elect Joe Biden will not reverse Mr Donald Trump's landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital but will seek a state for the Palestinians, Mr Antony Blinken, his nominee for secretary of state, said Tuesday (Jan 19).

Asked at his confirmation hearing by Senator Ted Cruz if the United States will continue its stance on Jerusalem and maintain its embassy, Mr Blinken said without hesitation, "Yes and yes."

Mr Trump in 2017 bucked international consensus and recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, despite Palestinians' claims to the holy city as part of their campaign for a separate state.

Mr Blinken indicated that Mr Biden would try harder to pursue a separate Palestinian state but acknowledged the difficulties.

"The only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution," Mr Blinken said.

But he added: "I think realistically it's hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that."

"What would be important is to make sure that neither party takes steps that make the already difficult process even more challenging," he said.

Shortly after his remarks, a watchdog said that Israel had issued tenders for 2,500 new settler homes.

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disputed that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land were illegal and visited one such site on a November trip to the West Bank.

The Trump administration had voiced general support for a Palestinian state but said it should be demilitarised and not have its capital inside Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership boycotted Mr Trump, saying the Jerusalem move as well as his ending of aid for Palestinian refugees showed his bias.

In a drive led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Mr Trump instead focused Middle East efforts on winning Arab recognition of Israel with four nations agreeing to normalise ties since September.

Mr Blinken also said he opposed campaigns to pressure Israel through boycotts, putting him at odds with some in the left wing of his Democratic Party.