Biden’s State pick backs two-state solution, says US embassy stays in Jerusalem

WASHINGTON — US President-elect Joe Biden will not reverse Donald Trump’s landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but will seek a state for the Palestinians, Tony Blinken, his nominee for secretary of state, said Tuesday.

Asked at his confirmation hearing by Senator Ted Cruz if the United States will continue its stance on Jerusalem and maintain its embassy, Blinken said without hesitation, “Yes and yes.”

Trump in 2017 bucked international consensus and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Palestinians’ claims to the holy city as their capital in a possible future state.

Blinken indicated that Biden would try harder to pursue a separate Palestinian state but acknowledged the difficulties.

“The only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution,” Blinken said.

But he added: “I think realistically it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that.”

“What would be important is to make sure that neither party takes steps that make the already difficult process even more challenging,” he said.

Israel approved the construction of nearly 800 homes in West Bank settlements on Sunday.

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disputed that Israeli settlements were illegal and visited one such site on a November trip to the West Bank, a first for a US secretary of state.

The Palestinian leadership boycotted Trump, saying the Jerusalem move and other decisions seen as favoring Israel showed his bias.

In a drive led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s White House instead focused Middle East efforts on winning Arab recognition of Israel with four nations agreeing to normalize ties since September — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Blinken also said he opposed campaigns to pressure Israel through boycotts, putting him at odds with some in the left-wing of his Democratic Party.

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