This next week, renowned diplomat Blinken will return to the Middle East. This time, what can he accomplish?

WASHINGTON (AP) – The State Department said on Saturday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making his sixth diplomatic trip to the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza more than six months ago.

Just two days after returning to Washington after a trip to China, Blinken is heading to Saudi Arabia on Monday. In the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Blinken will meet with Arab foreign ministers and attend a session of the World Economic Forum.

Blinken is scheduled to visit Israel on Tuesday, according to an official from the Israeli foreign ministry; this visit was not included in the State Department’s itinerary announcement.

His most recent trip to the Middle East coincides with the ongoing conflict, which has resulted in more than 34,000 Palestinian deaths, hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It follows discussions with President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking officials in China. In the Oct. 7 surprise strike that started the war, nearly 1,200 people were murdered and about 250 were taken hostage by Hamas in Israel.

The United States’ attempts to broker a cease-fire in return for the hostages’ release have fallen through. Hamas announced on Saturday that it was analyzing a fresh cease-fire proposal from Israel, while Egypt intensified its attempts to mediate a settlement to terminate the conflict and prevent an Israeli ground assault on the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

An official from Hamas withheld information about the offer. A six-week cease-fire proposal and the release of forty ill and civilian hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian inmates detained in Israeli jails were the main points of negotiation earlier this month.

Blinken has been traveling back and forth between Israel and the majority of its Arab and Muslim neighbors since mid-October in an effort to support Israel’s right to self-defense while simultaneously increasing aid to Gaza’s civilian population, preventing the conflict from spreading throughout the region, and garnering support for plans for the post-conflict reconstruction and governance of Gaza.

Political pressure in the United States has increased due to Israel’s Gaza offensive. Pro-Palestinian rallies have started to appear at campuses, but some have objected, claiming the demonstrations have turned antisemitic.

More than a million Palestinians have fled to Rafah to escape the fighting, and Blinken and other American officials have attempted to talk Israel out of launching a massive military campaign there.

His achievements have been few. While aid supplies entering Gaza have increased, they are still insufficient to stop what the UN claims is an impending famine, and Arab countries have decided to support Gaza’s developing future plans.

Blinken “will discuss ongoing efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza that secures the release of hostages and how it is Hamas that is standing between the Palestinian people and a cease-fire,” according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. In addition to talking about initiatives “to achieve lasting peace and security in the region, including through a pathway to an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel,” Blinken will emphasize the significance of preventing the conflict from getting worse.
The crisis has gotten worse, especially following an alleged Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria. Israel is moving forward with plans to invade Rafah. Iran responded by firing drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, which seemed to be an Israeli airstrike close to a significant air base and nuclear facility in central Iran.

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