The US Secretary of State in the Middle East in the midst of an outbreak of violence

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US Secretary of State in Middle East amid escalating violence

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarks on a tour of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories amid escalating violence. (File photo)

US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken arrived in Cairo on Sunday, the first leg of his whirlwind tour of the Middle East amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence, with slim hopes of exerting influence from the United States in an attempt to ease tensions.

Before traveling to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Blinken will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al -Sissi, and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Choukri.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also likely to dominate the discussions, Cairo historically playing an intermediary role with the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.

This trip, planned for a long time , comes as, within days, the security situation suddenly deteriorated.

On Friday and Saturday, seven people were killed and two injured in attacks in Jerusalem -East, the Palestinian part of the Holy City occupied and annexed by Israel, including one near a synagogue.

Also on Friday, the Israeli army shelled the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the enclave it maintains under blockade.

Mourners at the funeral of Rafael Ben Eliyahu, victim of a shooting in East Jerusalem on Friday.

This comes after the deadliest Israeli raid in years, with nine Palestinians killed Thursday in Jenin, in the northern occupied West Bank.

Separately, Israeli security guards killed a Palestinian near a settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday. The Israeli army claims he was armed.

Faced with this resurgence of violence, Mr. Blinken will urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take urgent measures for de-escalation, a spokesman said on Friday. Department of State, Vedant Patel, after Washington condemned the appalling attack in East Jerusalem.

But the Secretary of State's leeway seems limited beyond the repeated calls for calm, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be at an impasse.

Moreover, experts interviewed by AFP did not expect any notable breakthroughs, with Washington likely content to hammer home its support for the two-state solution , one Israeli and the other Palestinian.

I think the best they can get is for things to stabilize in order to avoid a repeat of May 2021, assures Aaron David Miller, former US negotiator and expert at the Carnegie Foundation for Washington's international peace. This is when the last war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza took place.

Washington Institute expert Ghaith Al-Omari, considers that this visit does not signal any change in the American position with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, he predicts, the conversation [with Mahmoud Abbas] will not be pleasant.

Mr. Blinken's visit to Israel reflects Washington's desire to quickly reconnect with Mr. Netanyahu, the head of the most right-wing government in Israel's history and whose relations with Israel have become more difficult. Democratic administration of President Joe Biden have been notoriously tense.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, during a weekly cabinet meeting held in Jerusalem on January 22, 2023.

While the talks break down on the Iranian nuclear issue in particular, the fact that any resurrection of the 2015 accord is currently in limbo should facilitate dialogue.

This visit comes after that of the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who assured the Israeli prime minister of US support.

I have never seen so many visits at such a high level under any administration, points out Aaron David Miller.

This is unprecedented, adds- he, referring to a possible arrival of Mr. Netanyahu at the White House in February.

It's a bit like flooding the area, adds another expert, David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute, while the director of the CIA, William Burns, recently visited the region, particularly in Cairo.

During his visit, Mr. Blinken will emphasize the importance of maintaining the historic status quo at the Al-Salan Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, third Islam's holiest site and Judaism's holiest site where Palestinians and Israeli troops regularly clash.

The visit to this holy place in early January by Itamar Ben Gvir, a figure of the Israeli far right and new Minister of National Security, sparked a wave of international condemnation.

The Abraham Accords, a process of normalization between Israel and several Arab countries, should also be on the menu of discussions, Mr. Netanyahu cherishing the hope of rallying Saudi Arabia to it.

In Cairo, a key regional ally of Washington, Mr. Blinken is also expected to address a range of regional issues, including Libya and Sudan.

Egypt, one of the main recipients of American military aid, however, is regularly singled out, notably by the United States, for its human rights record, considered catastrophic by the authorities. NGO.

The head of the American diplomacy must also meet in Cairo with actors of the society c civil and human rights activists, who constantly point out that the country has more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience.