'Palestinians deserve freedom', Blinken tells Israel PM

Blinken tells Israel PM Bennett 'Palestinians deserve freedom' ahead of Biden encounter
3 min read
26 August, 2021
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken underscored that 'Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity and dignity'.
Secretary Blinken met Israeli premier Bennett on Wednesday [OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP/Getty]

Israeli premier Naftali Bennett attended a key meeting with the United States' most senior diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on Wednesday.

The meeting came as part of the Israeli premier's first state visit since coming power, and ahead of his first official meeting with US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

During their talk in Washington, Bennett and Blinken covered Palestinian rights, Iran, and a visa-free travel scheme among other topics.

The two are looking to establish a visa waiver programme, to "benefit both US citizens and Israeli citizens", according to a State Department read-out.

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken underscored that "Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and dignity".

This "is important in its own right and as a means to advance prospects for a two-state solution", Price continued in his summary of Blinken's remarks.

This comes as Israel's occupation and treatment of Palestinians comes under increased international scrutiny, with Human Rights Watch in April saying it is engaged in "apartheid".

Amid disagreements with the US, particularly on Iran, Bennett said: "I bring from Israel a new spirit, a spirit of folks who sometimes harbor different opinions but work together in cooperation, in goodwill, in a spirit of unity and we work hard to find common things that we do agree upon and move forward on it."

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While the US favours a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which ex-President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, Bennett is set to suggest a different tactic for managing the Islamic Republic, according to a top-level Israeli insider cited by The Times of Israel

The nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saw Iran agree to curb its nuclear efforts in return for the easing of sanctions against it.

Ahead of Biden and Bennett's Thursday encounter, two senior US administration officials briefed the press on Tuesday.

One of them said Washington is "of course, committed to a diplomatic path" on curbing Iran's nuclear activities.

"But obviously, if that doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue", they added.

The same official also talked about "building upon the breakthroughs" of Israeli normalisation with Arab countries like the UAE and Bahrain, saying there were attempts to involve other nations, and Biden and Bennett will talk about this.

They also indicated that Bennett and Biden will discuss Palestine, though Biden's administration "recognize[s] the reality that resumption of [peace] talks and negotiations is not likely in the near term".

Prior to seeing Biden, Bennett told The New York Times his governing coalition won't facilitate a Palestinian state being established, in an article published on Tuesday.

He also explained Israel is to continue to grow those illegal settlements in the West Bank which have already been created.