The Palestinian leadership must cease inciting to violence and offer something concrete to Israelis, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.
It is “absolutely vital” for Israel to take steps “that empower Palestinian leaders to improve economic opportunity and the quality of their lives on a day to day basis,” Kerry said in a speech in Washington to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
It is “equally important,” he said, “for Palestinian leaders to cease the incitement of violence and offer something more than rhetoric.”
Instead, the Palestinians need to “propose solutions that will contribute in a real way to the improvement of life, to the reduction of violence and to the safety and security of Israelis,” Kerry said.
His speech came the same day that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, said that “Israel is systematically violating the principles of international law and acting as a state above the law,” and called for International “protection” for the Palestinians.
Kerry, in his comments, said the current spasm of violence “hurts everyone” and is an indication of what things will look like if there is not a twostate solution.
“The current situation is simply not sustainable,” he said. “Firm and creative leadership on both sides is absolutely essential. A two-state solution with strong security protection remains the only viable alternative.” He added that the US “absolutely remains prepared” to do what it can to bring about this solution.
Meanwhile Abbas, speaking in Geneva, charged that the “status of human rights” in the territories and east Jerusalem “is the worst and most critical since 1948.”
This, he said, calls for “strong and decisive intervention” by the UN “to set up a special regime for international protection for the Palestinian people, immediately and urgently.”
An Israeli government official responded to this by saying that Abbas is ignoring the “fundamental truth” that the current violence “has been launched by Palestinians against Israelis, and not the other way around.”
According to the official, “demonizing Israel is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to Abbas’s speeches in international forums.”
The Palestinian leader, he said, “refuses to take responsibility for his own behavior: running away from negotiations, fomenting incitement, and even refusing to condemn terrorism.”
Abbas said it is time for Israeli leaders to have the courage to take sincere and real decisions to make the two-state solution a tangible reality before it is too late. The current violence is “an inevitable outcome of Israeli violations and crimes that we had previously warned against,” he said.
Peace and stability cannot be achieved unless “occupation ends and Palestinians achieve independence,” Abbas said.
He said that for years he had warned against Israeli measures in Jerusalem. Since 2000, successive Israeli governments have been working to alter the identity and history and demography of Jerusalem, he claimed.
“I have repeatedly cautioned that the pressure would lead to an explosion,” Abbas said.
He also accused Israel of seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, saying this would transform the conflict from a political to a religious conflict.
Abbas accused the government of backing settlers who perpetrate crimes against Palestinians and their properties and holy sites.
He said that the absence of hope, lack of security and Israeli pressure are driving Palestinians toward despair.
Abbas repeated his charge that Israel carries out summary executions of innocent Palestinians and imposes collective punishment on entire Palestinian communities.
He also reiterated his warning that Israel’s failure to honor signed agreements with the Palestinians would prompt the Palestinians to revise their commitment to these accords.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, declined to comment on a UN Security Council resolution that New Zealand is preparing aimed at calming the violence and kick-starting negotiations.
According to a report in Haaretz
, the draft resolution calls for Israel to freeze settlement expansion and home demolitions, and for the Palestinians to cease lodging complaints against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It also says that a durable peace “based on a two-state solution can only be achieved if the two sides engage in serious negotiations.”
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the proposal, and one government official said it is too early for Israel to take a position on the matter, because it is not clear “how serious it is.”
In the meantime, however, the New Zealand proposal has eclipsed an idea bandied about informally by the French – and then apparently buried following opposition by Israel, the US and Jordan – to bring a resolution to the Security Council calling for the placement of international observers on the Temple Mount.
New Zealand is one of the 10 temporary members of the 15-member Security Council and its Foreign Minister Murray McCully was in Israel earlier this year.
During his visit, one Israeli official said, Israel made the case that the job of the international community should be to encourage resumption of the negotiations, and “not to give the Palestinians an excuse not to negotiate.”
In response to a query about the New Zealand proposal, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, said, “the only way to achieve peace is through direct talks between the parties.
The best way to reduce tensions in the region is to urge President Abbas to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to meet with him.”