At Davos, Blinken calls a pathway to a Palestinian state a necessity for Israeli security


DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the need for a “pathway to a Palestinian state” during a talk Wednesday at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, saying Israel would not “get genuine security absent that.”

If Israel can be brought into the fold of the Middle East, Blinken said, the region would be coming together to isolate Iran, which he called “the biggest concern in terms of security,” as well as its proxies. Those include Yemen's Houthi rebels who have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea.

“The problem is getting from here to there, and of course, it requires very difficult, challenging decisions. It requires a mindset that is open to that perspective,” Blinken said.

He said what is different now is the mindset of leaders in the Arab and Muslim world on integrating Israel into the region and that he feels “a fierce urgency” because “we’re in the midst of what is human tragedy in so many ways in the Middle East right now — for the Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

His comments come as a key Iranian official graces the same hallways of the glitzy event in the Alpine snows of Davos: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian is sitting down for a one-on-one chat with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria later Wednesday.

A day earlier, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, said during a Davos panel that his country agreed “regional peace includes peace for Israel” and responded “certainly” when asked if Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel as part of a larger political agreement.

“But that can only happen through peace for the Palestinians, through a Palestinian state,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a government that is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and Netanyahu himself recently said that his actions over the years prevented the formation of such a state.

Blinken said Israelis would need to decide on their leadership and direction, saying it's up to them whether the country can “seize the opportunity that we believe is there.” He called this “an inflection point” for the Middle East that requires hard decisions.

Blinken, after meetings Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others, was asked in a conversation with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman whether Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives. He responded, “No, period.”

“What we’re seeing every single day in Gaza is gut-wrenching,” he said.

To ease that suffering, the U.S. is pushing to get more humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, minimize civilian casualties and impress upon Israel its responsibility to ensure that is the case, Blinken said.

Israel says its war is a legitimate defense of its people and accuses Hamas of genocide, focusing on the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured around 250. Amid a barrage of bombings and intense fighting, over 24,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, according to claims by the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza.

France, along with Qatar, helped mediate an agreement to ship medicine into Gaza for dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The shipment is due to arrive Wednesday, the same day French leader Emmanuel Macron will speak in Davos.