Nicole Jansezian | January 28, 2021
Antony Blinken is the new man to get to know in the Middle East. The U.S. Senate confirmed Blinken as the 71st secretary of state on Tuesday. “America’s leadership is needed around the world, and we will provide it, because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.” Though he is expected to reverse much of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies, Blinken also expressed agreement with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives such as the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and several Muslim countries. He would also take a tough stance on China. And while U.S. President Joe Biden has long expressed interest in returning the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal – which is of grave concern to Israel – Blinken said the administration will consult with Israel and other allies in the Middle East before making any decisions.
Here are some tidbits you need to know about Antony Blinken and how will he relate to Israel and the Middle East.
- Blinken is Jewish and is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor whose stories have helped shape his worldview and, subsequently, his policy decisions, including in the Middle East.
- He was born in New York City to Judith (Frehm) and Donald M. Blinken, a former United States Ambassador to Hungary under President Bill Clinton’s administration.
- Blinken’s mother, Judith, remarried Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor and attorney who advised President John F. Kennedy and multiple French presidents. Pisar, who survived three concentration camps, also worked for the United Nations, wrote a libretto titled “Kaddish-A Dialogue With God” at the behest of Leonard Bernstein and penned an award-winning memoir about his Holocaust experiences.
- Blinken attended grade school and high school in Paris where he received a French Baccalaureate degree with high honors. He is a graduate of Harvard College Magna cum Laude and Columbia Law School.
- Yoram Ettinger, a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative, wrote that “Blinken opposes Israel’s annexation of – and expanded Jewish presence in – any part of Judea and Samaria, as well as in Jerusalem beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines. He considers dramatic land concessions on behalf of Israel to be a prerequisite for peace.”
- As part of the first point, Ettinger continues that Blinken “supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the pre-1967 Jordan-occupied-Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem.”
- Ettinger adds: Blinken “aims to restore annual financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (which was suspended due to the P.A.’s financial support of families of terrorists and the systematic heralding of terrorists), as well as the annual financial transfer to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (which was suspended due to its funding of the P.A.’s hate education). Also, he will reopen the PLO office in Washington, D.C.”
- Blinken has said that Biden “believes that the only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and also to make sure that the Palestinian aspirations for a state are fulfilled is through a two-state solution.”
- In the same interview, he also said the Biden “would not tie our military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes. Israel’s security is challenged on a daily basis. They face existential threats every single day. And he’s made clear that he would not tie our military assistance to this.”
Blinken held several senior foreign policy positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations for more than two decades. He served as President Clinton’s chief foreign policy speechwriter and as an advisor for relations with Europe, the European Union and NATO. He was the Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden during the first term of the Obama administration.
He served as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor under Obama and chaired the administration’s principal forum for formulating foreign policy and later as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.
Prior to joining the Clinton Administration, Blinken practiced law in New York and Paris.
He wrote for The New Republic magazine and has written about foreign policy for numerous publications including the New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and Foreign Affairs.
He is the author of “Ally Versus Ally: America, Europe and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis.” He appeared frequently on cable and network television on behalf of the Obama administration.