Blinken Back in Israel Amid Diplomatic Push to Contain War

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel Monday following talks with Arab officials, as diplomatic efforts intensify to avert a wider Middle East conflict.

(Bloomberg) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel Monday following talks with Arab officials, as diplomatic efforts intensify to avert a wider Middle East conflict.

President Joe Biden is weighing visiting Israel himself and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to arrive Tuesday, according to person familiar with the plan. Scholz will then travel on to Egypt, where he will meet President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday, said the person.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in Rome, where he met Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as part of an effort to ease tensions.

Israel has said it’s preparing for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to “wipe out” Hamas after the Iran-backed militant group launched an unprecedented Oct. 7 attack, killing 1,300 people and kidnapping around 200.

Israel has since imposed a near-total siege on the Hamas-ruled enclave and launched thousands of air strikes. Palestinian health officials say more than 2,650 people in Gaza have been killed and UN officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis.

Repeated rocket attacks by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another Iran-sponsored group, over the past week have raised the prospect that the war will spread to Israel’s northern border.

Blinken met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They discussed what Blinken heard from regional leaders following a whirlwind tour of six Arab states. In the past four days, Blinken touched down in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“I want an opportunity to share everything that I’ve heard, that I’ve learned over the last few days visiting with our other partners and to talk about the way forward with our Israeli allies and friends,” Blinken told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.

“What I’ve heard from virtually every partner was a determination,” he said. “A shared view that we have to do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t spread to other places, a shared view to safeguard innocent lives, a shared view to get assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who need it, and we’re working very much on that.”

Iranian Warning

Blinken has engaged with Israeli officials on the assistance they need for the war and on efforts to free American hostages taken by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union. 

He’s also lobbying Arab states to use their influence to secure the release of hostages and discourage Hezbollah from opening up a second front in Israel’s north. Hezbollah has said it is prepared to act “when the time comes.”

Iran reiterated its warning that a ground attack on Gaza will lead to the war spreading.

“The possible expansion of the war on other fronts is approaching the inevitable stage,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Monday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The time for political solutions is running out.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is also getting involved. He will discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict with Netanyahu on Monday, according to Russian media.

Putin has already spoken to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and plans to talk with Egypt’s El-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who’s organization rules the West Bank.

–With assistance from John Follain, Angela Cullen and Michael Nienaber.

(Updates with latest from Blinken, Scholz and Putin.)

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