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

Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2021

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President-elect Joe Biden will not reverse Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital but will seek a state for the Palestinian, his nominee for secretary of state said.

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

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

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

Blinken indicated that 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," 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 demilitarized and not have its capital inside Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership boycotted 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, Trump instead focused Middle East efforts on winning Arab recognition of Israel with four nations agreeing to normalize ties since September.

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.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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