Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited the occupied West Bank on Tuesday to meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and called for a defusing of the violence that has gripped the region, while conceding that Palestinians face dwindling prospects in their larger struggle for independence.
Mr. Blinken visited Mr. Abbas at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, part of a whirlwind regional tour coinciding with one of the deadliest months in the West Bank in several years. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in January, mostly during Israeli military raids aimed at quelling a growing insurgency and arresting Palestinian gunmen.
The violence has also seeped into Jerusalem. A Palestinian attacker shot dead seven civilians outside a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem on Friday night — the worst attack in the city since 2008 — and there are fears of a further escalation in coming weeks. That has further complicated the Biden administration’s diplomacy with a new right-wing coalition government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Palestinians and Israelis alike are experiencing growing insecurity and fear in their homes and communities in their places of worship,” Mr. Blinken said. “We believe it’s important to take steps to de-escalate, to stop the violence, to reduce tensions — and to try as well to create the foundation for more positive actions going forward.”
Mr. Blinken said the United States continues to hope for a negotiated peace settlement that can lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. But talks to that end have been stalled for years, and Israel’s new government has shown more interest in the potential annexation of Palestinian land than in the possibility of statehood.
“What we’re seeing now for Palestinians is a shrinking horizon of hope, not an expanding one. And that, too, we believe needs to change,” he said. In a modest effort to assist that aim, he announced $50 million in new American funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to the Palestinians.
His meeting with the 87-year-old Mr. Abbas came a day after Mr. Blinken met in Jerusalem with Mr. Netanyahu and issued similar calls for both Israelis and Palestinians to reduce tensions.
Mr. Abbas denounced Israel for depriving Palestinians of their rights, overseeing “annexation” of West Bank land and demolishing Palestinian homes there — steps that he said made it more difficult to achieve a peace agreement.
“We have found that the Israeli government is responsible for what’s happening these days,” he said.
But the Palestinian leader, reading from a prepared statement, also condemned the international community for allowing that to happen, though he did not single out the United States.
Mr. Blinken arrived in Ramallah from Jerusalem after his motorcade drove through the rain past Israeli checkpoints manned by soldiers with assault rifles.
Before seeing Mr. Abbas, Mr. Blinken stopped at a nearby nonprofit community center where he met with local entrepreneurs with ties to the United States.
With the small group seated in a semicircle around trays of sweets, Mr. Blinken said that the Biden administration had “set out to renew and strengthen our ties with the Palestinian people.”
Mr. Blinken’s meeting with Mr. Abbas had been expected to be tense. Palestinian officials said they hoped that Mr. Blinken might announce a new approach to ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and where hundreds of thousands of Israelis have since settled alongside millions of Palestinians.
But beyond money for the U.N. relief group, Mr. Blinken had nothing new in hand.
Distracted by other global challenges, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and amid Israeli opposition to Palestinian sovereignty as well as deep rifts in Palestinian society, the Biden administration has not prioritized the restoration of the peace process.
Mr. Blinken’s chief goal in Ramallah appeared to be persuading the Palestinian leadership to help reduce tensions in the West Bank, which in 2022 saw the highest Palestinian death toll — more than 170 were killed, often during Israeli operations to arrest gunmen — in more than half a decade.
Mr. Abbas made no specific call for his people to refrain from acts of violence, although neither did Mr. Netanyahu a day earlier.
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Blinken met with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has helped to mediate two cease-fires between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza since Mr. Biden took office. Mr. Blinken later told reporters that he had discussed the current crisis with the Egyptian leader.
New armed groups of young Palestinians, chafing under occupation and the creation of a two-tier legal system that distinguishes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, emerged last year, increasing the number of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
But Mr. Abbas is in a weak position to ensure order. The Palestinian Authority administers most Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, but its grip on areas outside Ramallah, where Mr. Abbas is accused of autocratic behavior, is loosening, particularly in cities like Jenin and Nablus, where the most active insurgents are based.
Mr. Abbas has long avoided fully enforcing the authority’s control in those cities, where public resentment of the body is already high, amid widespread perception that it is corrupt and maintains too close a relationship with Israel. On Saturday, the authority released a statement holding Israel responsible for the escalation, ignoring Israeli calls for the Palestinian leadership to condemn Palestinian violence.
After months of public pressure, Mr. Abbas last week scaled back the authority’s coordination with the Israeli security services, following an Israeli operation in Jenin to arrest several gunmen that left 10 Palestinians dead. Despite U.S. pressure to restore the coordination mechanism, analysts say that Mr. Abbas may be reluctant to do so without some kind of Israeli or American concession to the Palestinians.
Though the Biden administration has restored funding to Palestinian institutions that was cut during the Trump administration, Palestinian officials are frustrated that the American president has not repealed other Trump-era policies that the Palestinians deem obstacles to statehood.
Mr. Biden has not formally canceled a Trump administration decision to legitimize Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal. Following Israeli pressure, he has not reopened the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian mission in Washington, both of which were closed under Mr. Trump.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Blinken held meetings with Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, as well as the leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid. He also visited a group of Israeli civil society leaders, praising them for helping to “make sure that each of us” is treated with dignity — a message that came at a moment when many Israelis are worried about legal protections not only for Palestinians but for L.G.B.T. citizens.
Before his meeting with Mr. Gallant, Mr. Blinken nodded to the long list of hard problems complicating the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“We have a lot on our hands in this moment,” he said, “and so I couldn’t see you at a better time.”
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