Blinken Seeks Palestinian Governance Reform for Postwar Gaza as Israeli Strikes Continue

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TEL AVIV, Israel—Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday about reforming the Palestinian Authority, as part of U.S. efforts to rally the region behind postwar plans for Gaza that also include concrete steps toward a Palestinian state.

Mr. Blinken says he has secured commitments from multiple countries in the region to assist with rebuilding and governing Gaza after Israel’s war against Hamas, and that wider Israeli-Arab normalization is still possible, but only if there is “a pathway to a Palestinian state.”

In their meeting Wednesday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mr. Blinken told Mr. Abbas that the United States supports “tangible steps towards the creation of a Palestinian state,” according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. He said the two discussed administrative reform.

The vision outlined by Mr. Blinken faces serious obstacles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel until they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, and the autocratic Palestinian leadership, whose forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas took over in 2007, lacks legitimacy in the view of many Palestinians.

The war in Gaza has also stoked escalating violence between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group and has raised fears of a wider conflict.

Blinken Pressures Both Sides on Whirlwind Trip

On his fourth visit to the region, since the war began three months ago, Mr. Blinken has met in recent days with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. He says they are open to contributing to postwar plans in return for progress on creating a Palestinian state.

The Saudi Ambassador to the UK went even further on Tuesday, telling the BBC that the kingdom is still interested in a landmark normalization agreement with Israel, but that it must include “nothing less than an independent state of Palestine.”

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“One doesn’t come without the other,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Blinken said the Palestinian Authority “has a responsibility to reform itself, to improve its governance,” and that he would discuss that with the 88-year-old Mr. Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank under interim peace deals reached in the 1990s and cooperates with Israel on security matters.

Later Wednesday, Mr. Abbas was set to meet with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt, two U.S. allies who have long served as mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Jordan’s Red Sea city of Aqaba.

War Rages on With No End in Sight

Israel has vowed to keep fighting until it crushes Hamas and returns scores of hostages held by the terrorist group after it attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the war. Israeli officials say the campaign will continue through the rest of the year.

Nearly 85 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been driven from their homes by the fighting.

The military is now focusing major operations on the southern city of Khan Younis and built-up refugee camps in central Gaza that date back to the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Hundreds of people have been killed in recent days in continuing strikes across the territory, including in areas of the far south where people have been told to seek refuge.

Since the war began, Israel’s offensive has killed 23,357 Palestinians and wounded more than 59,000, according to an update Wednesday from the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

In the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Hamas terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians. They abducted around 250 others, nearly half of whom were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

The Israeli military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high toll on Hamas because the terrorists fight in densely populated areas, using the Gaza population as human shields. It says it has killed some 8,000 militants and that 186 of its own soldiers have been killed in the offensive.

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