The United States on Monday expressed concern over “tangible and dangerous” tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden to the region next month.
“We once again call on all parties to refrain from unilateral action that increases tensions and undermines efforts to promote a negotiated two-state solution, such as settlement activities, demolition, incitement to violence and evictions,” the deputy ambassador of the USA at the United Nations. , Richard Mills, told a Security Council meeting on the issue of Israeli settlements.
Biden will visit Israel and the West Bank and then continue to Saudi Arabia from July 13 to July 16.
The White House says the president plans to meet with Israeli leaders to discuss that country’s “security, prosperity and its growing integration into the greater region.” Biden will also visit the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority officials.
Mills said during the trip, Biden would “insist on calm and explore ways to promote equal security, freedom and opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Relations between the US and Palestinians reached a low point in 2020 when the Trump administration unveiled its Middle East peace plan. The Palestinians completely rejected it, saying that it greatly benefited Israel and did not give them a sovereign, adjacent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Trump administration also moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, angering the Palestinians. Biden criticized the move, but did not reverse it.
The United Nations says violence has increased in recent months in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. Since mid-March, the UN says 49 Palestinians, including several children, have been killed in protests and clashes with Israeli forces, while 11 Israelis and three foreign nationals have been killed in attacks inside Israel.
“As events have shown in recent months, managing the conflict is not a viable option forever,” Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the council from Jerusalem. . “There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict.”
Palestinian-American journalist dies
Biden is also likely to face questions from Palestinian officials over the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead on May 11 while covering an Israeli operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Abu Akleh was also a US citizen.
The UN Office for Human Rights said on Friday that the information they gathered was in line with the finding that Abu Akleh had been killed by Israeli security forces and not by indiscriminate shooting by armed Palestinians, as Israeli authorities initially claimed. The UN justice office said its monitors also found no information indicating activities by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of Abu Akleh and her colleagues.
“We, like others in this council, are concerned about the assassination of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” Mills told the Security Council. “We continue to emphasize the importance of accountability for Abu Akleh’s tragic death. “The United States will not give in to our calls for transparent accountability to those responsible for this tragedy until justice is done.”
Asked by a reporter last week whether Biden would commit Abu Akleh’s murder during his trip to Israel, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration wanted her death “fully investigated” and that the president will not be “ashamed” of raising human rights and press freedom issues “with any foreign leader anywhere in the world”.
VOA’s Anita Powell contributed to this story.