Israel’s 11-day assault on Gaza which killed more than 250 people ended in a ceasefire that does not address any underlying issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something US State Secretary Blinken also avoided during his Mideast blitz
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has offered Palestine's leadership development aid, money for besieged Gaza and reopening the consulate in West Jerusalem but his trip did not see Washington offer engagement on an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Blinken and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a flurry of separate meetings as part of an effort by stakeholders to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, none of which included Hamas, a rival of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority.
Before meeting Blinken in Ramallah in occupied West Bank, Abbas started Tuesday with a meeting with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi.
In their meeting, Blinken and Abbas discussed aid for Gaza's rehabilitation after Israel's 11-day bombardment and how to build on the ceasefire.
The Biden administration will ask US Congress for $75 million more in development and economic assistance for Palestinians, Blinken announced at a joint press conference after the meeting, reiterating that the aid will exclude the Hamas government.
The US would also provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza and $32 million to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The “US is in the process of providing more than $360M in urgent support for Palestinian people," Blinken said without clarifying the breakdown.
It is vitally important that "what is rebuilt is not lost again," Blinken said, in a reference to Hamas in Gaza.
Steering clear from talk of brokering a peace process between Israel and Palestine, Blinken toed the US line of a commitment to rebuilding a relationship with Palestinian people with the end-goal of two states.
Blinken faces the same obstacles that have stifled a wider peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli government and a scattered Palestinian leadership
He listed a range of issues from Israeli settlements to Palestinian Authority payments to prisoners as "unilateral" actions that threaten peace.
Washington will also be moving forward with the process to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem, Blinken said.
At the press conference, Abbas affirmed his government was "ready to establish a national unity government."
Abbas postponed polls this year in a move that highlighted further fragmentation in Palestinian leadership that is split between Hamas, Fatah and other political parties.
Blinken arrived in Israel on Tuesday as part of a tour that includes West Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jordan and Egypt.
Blinken, in an earlier meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the larger conflict, saying "we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity.”
But the top US diplomat maintained Washington's policy of excluding Gaza leadership and will not be meeting with Hamas.
Both Israel and the US consider Hamas to be a terrorist organisation and are determined to chart peace in the region without direct talks with the group.
United against Israel but not over Palestinian politics
Abbas heads the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of occupied West Bank but whose forces were routed from Gaza after Hamas seized power in an election in 2006.
Palestinians have been politically divided between Hamas and its rival Fatah, which has seen splinter groups emerge.
The latest Israeli aggression in Gaza served to unite geographically fragmented Palestine in a way not seen in years, analysts have said, though whether this will extend to Palestinian leadership is unlikely.
Palestine is split into Gaza, occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and other territories.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch and Israel's B'Tselem recently accused Israel of running an "apartheid" system.
The fragmentation has long served to "ensure that there is no full Palestinian engagement geographically, socially and politically," said Salem Barahmeh, director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy. Barahmeh is based in Ramallah.
Palestinians, a minority of about 20 percent in Israel, face their own unique challenges, said Amal Jamal, political science professor at Tel Aviv University.
"Palestinians in Israel are realistic, they have been living with Jews for decades, they understand the Israeli psyche, politics, culture, they speak Hebrew fluently," he said.
"Palestinians in Israel are fighting for their legitimacy, to be part of the political system, part of the decision making, in order to lead to a solution to the Palestinian problem," Jamal said.
While Gaza is mired in poverty, the occupied West Bank after successive intifadas (uprisings) has seen liberal economic policies and the emergence of a middle class that at times seems less politically engaged, he said.
Gaza's ruling administration, Hamas, unlike Fatah, does not recognise Israel.
Is Abbas the wrong key to unlock peace?
From blockaded Gaza to occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to Palestinians living inside the Jewish state, scattered people pulled closer together during Israel's assault on the enclave.
A sea of Palestinian flags flew in solidarity rallies, especially during "Day of Rage" protests and a general strike on May 18 that cut across separate areas.
Administrative offices, schools and businesses closed across the West Bank to protest the bombardment of Gaza but also against expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
In a rare move, the shutters also came down in occupied East Jerusalem, the part of the Holy City annexed by Israel, and in Palestinian population centres such as Nazareth and Acre.
But the morning after the ceasefire was announced in Gaza on May 20, Al Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem saw a crowd of Palestinians chanting: “The people want to overthrow (the president)”.
READ MORE: Palestinian resistance: How diverse is it?
Israeli violence in occupied Palestinian territories
Israel’s latest attacks on Gaza followed spiking tensions in occupied Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel's 11-day bombardment killed at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children.
Israeli police deployed heavy-handed tactics against Palestinian worshippers in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in the last week of the holy month.
Another flashpoint in recent days has been a court case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from occupied East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers.
The ensuing violence spread to the West Bank, where Israeli forces are largely in charge but the Palestinian Authority has limited control.
More than 25 Palestinians were killed in West Bank clashes.
Inter-communal violence also flared in Israeli areas where Jews and Palestinians usually live side by side
Abbas of Fatah recently called the first Palestinian elections in 15 years this year.
But he then indefinitely postponed the polls, blaming voting restrictions in occupied East Jerusalem, which led Hamas to accuse Abbas of perpetrating a "coup".
The Fatah-dominated umbrella group Palestine Liberation Organization said Hamas has been part of discussions on the formation of a government after the postponement of the elections.
Despite these divisions, a sense of common Palestinian identity has been strengthened, said Barahmeh.
"Everything we see tells us that there is a form of unity. Is it fully formed? No ... But I think it's the start of something."