Settlement expansion is obstacle to peace, Blinken tells US Israel lobby
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy Summit in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Simon Lewis and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged continued U.S. commitment to both Israel's security and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict on Monday, but said the expansion of Jewish settlements would be an obstacle to peace.
In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, Blinken also said that moves toward annexation of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or that disrupt the status quo at holy sites would hurt the prospects for a two-state solution.
President Joe Biden's administration has criticized Israel's right-wing government for moves it sees as consolidating settlements and for "provocative" visits by some members of the government to sites in Jerusalem sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
"Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope that we seek," Blinken said to muted response from the audience.
"Likewise, any move toward annexation of the West Bank, de facto or de jure, disruption of the historic status quo at holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes and the evictions of families that have lived in those homes for generations damage prospects for two states. They also undermine the basic daily dignity to which all people are entitled," Blinken added.
Israel's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The top U.S. diplomat drew widespread applause when he outlined the longstanding American commitment to Israel and said all options were on the table when it came to preventing Israel's No. 1 enemy, Iran, from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Blinken, who is set to travel to Saudi Arabia this week, said the United States would keep helping Israel's efforts to integrate with its neighbors, including by creating a new position for a diplomat charged with "working towards a more peaceful and connected" Middle East.
"The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia," Blinken added.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Doina Chiacu; editing by Rami Ayyub, Bernadette Baum and Will Dunham)
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