During a Friday phone call with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the U.S. commitment to a “two-state solution” and urged that “all parties” should quickly de-escalate the atmosphere of violence in the Judea-Samaria region of the Jordan Rift Valley.
However, commentators note that the escalating violence in this region less reflects formal squabbles between Israeli and P.A. political entities and more hints at anarchy in the Palestinian camp and a shirking of duties by P.A. security officials who have chosen to take part in or back terror activity in the area.
On the political level, the P.A. carries the consistent tune that Israel is to blame – that Israel is a “foreign, invading force” that tramples on the Palestinian “holy sites” – a misrepresentation of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, where King Solomon built the Temple to God.
Abbas echoed this to Blinken on Friday by beseeching the U.S. administration “to compel the Israeli occupation authorities to stop these crimes committed against the Palestinian people, land and holy sites,” reported WAFA, the Palestinian News and Information Agency.
Abbas’ incendiary comments aligned Christians and Muslims as a group, targeted by the “violence and violations” of Israelis, whom he called “settlers,” and alleged that Israel “occupies” Jerusalem, the Israeli capital.
Abbas reportedly described the “Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people” as “including the blockades, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions and settlement construction, in addition to settlers’ violence and violations carried out against the ‘occupied’ city of Jerusalem and its Muslim and Christian holy sites.”
In turn, according to U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, “The Secretary [Blinken] underscored his deep concern over the situation in the West Bank, including heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, and emphasized the need for all parties to de-escalate the situation urgently.”
In addition, Price said Blinken spoke about “joint efforts to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom.”
Blinken, himself, wrote on social media that it was “good speaking with President Abbas yesterday.”
Violence has increased significantly in Judea and Samaria in recent months, especially in Nablus and Jenin in Samaria, as Palestinian gunmen and terrorists – particularly members of Lion’s Den – have attacked military posts, Israeli troops operating in the area, Israeli settlements and Israeli civilians traveling on the roads.
Israel has engaged in an intensive months-long anti-terror campaign after an increase in Palestinian terrorism killed 19 people earlier this year. More than 2,000 Palestinian suspects have been arrested during the campaign and 125 Palestinians have been killed while preparing to carry out attacks or clashing with Israeli troops.
Yoav Limor wrote this fall in Israel HaYom that the escalating tensions in Judea and Samaria reflect two phenomena that “have troubled Israel for a long time” and have been exacerbated “at a dangerous rate.”
The first concern Limor cited is “the Palestinian Authority’s increasing loss of control in northern Samaria. Jenin (and its refugee camp) was the first to break off, and anarchy is rapidly spreading south, toward Nablus, and even further, to Ramallah and beyond.”
Limor noted examples of violence that were directed against Israeli, and also official P.A., targets, stating that the latter “are struggling to regain control of the territory.”
The second troubling phenomenon, Limor wrote, “is the number of Palestinian security operatives who are involved in terror activities and shootouts with IDF forces during arrests.”
“This is disturbing not only because of the weapons that they as police officers possess, but also because it can turn a colleague into a predator,” he wrote in Israel HaYom.
Friday’s call between Blinken and Abbas comes at a time of tense relations between the Biden administration and the P.A.
The Biden administration recently expressed rare public “disappointment” with Abbas after the P.A. leader told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he does not trust the U.S. to play a role in future negotiations about the Middle East conflict.
“We don’t trust America and you know our position. We don’t trust it, we don’t rely on it, and under no circumstances can we accept that America is the sole party in resolving a problem,” Abbas said, ahead of a meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a conference in Kazakhstan.
Abbas also spoke condescendingly of Blinken recently in front of a group of Arab Americans during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, calling him a “little boy” for not forcing Israel to make peace.
“Abbas can be heard telling the meeting attendees he used to believe U.S. administrations which, he asserted, told him that Israel does not want peace. However, he now realizes that ‘It’s not that the Israelis don’t want peace but [that] the Americans don’t want peace,’” according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Times of Israel.