A Blinken Visit Puts U.S.-Israeli Tensions on Full Display

As Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken sat down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel this week, American and Arab officials were expressing cautious optimism over the latest proposal from Hamas for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

But just hours after speaking to Mr. Blinken, Mr. Netanyahu appeared more intent on delivering a fiery message aimed at his domestic audience. Instead of appearing side by side at a news conference with the secretary of state after they met on Wednesday — as is customary on such trips — the Israeli leader pre-empted him. Meeting on his own with reporters, he denounced the very proposal the Americans saw as a potential opening to a negotiated solution.

“Surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas — which we’ve just heard — won’t lead to the liberation of the hostages, and it will only invite another massacre,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Shortly after that, Mr. Blinken delivered his own, much more measured, assessment of the Hamas offer at a news conference in Jerusalem, saying that while it had “clear nonstarters,” it also left space for an agreement to be reached.

On Thursday, as Mr. Blinken ended his fifth visit to the Middle East in the four months since the war in Gaza began, it was clear that relations between the Biden administration and Mr. Netanyahu have become increasingly fraught. That raised questions about how drawn out the process might be to reach an agreement to end the conflict.

Mr. Blinken has been trying to secure a cease-fire in Gaza, a release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and, eventually, a broader peace process for the region. But one stumbling block during his visit seemed to be the considerable domestic political pressures facing the Israeli prime minister.

Israeli soldiers, photographed during an escorted tour for journalists by the Israeli military in the central Gaza Strip last month.Credit…Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

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