US Secretary of State John Kerry emerged from a four hour meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday expressing “cautious optimism” that steps will be implemented in the coming days that could lead to a deescalation of the current violence.
Kerry, before a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he was “cautiously encouraged that we discussed a number of different things that now need to be discussed with [Jordan’s] King Abdullah, with [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, [and] with others in the region.”
Kerry is scheduled to meet with both men over the weekend in Amman, amid reports that they did not agree to a summit together with Netanyahu.
Over the past few days Kerry has discussed the need to “clarify” the status quo on the Temple Mount. Following his meeting with Netanyahu, the State Department issued a statement saying, “A number of constructive proposals were suggested, including steps Israel could take to reaffirm yet again the continued commitment to maintaining the status quo at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.”
Kerry will now discuss these proposals with Abdullah and Abbas, the statement read.
Both Kerry and Netanyahu agreed, it stated, “on the need to stop incitement, reduce tension and restore calm.”
Netanyahu, during comments he made before the meeting, said that there was “no question” that the current wave of Arab attacks was driven by incitement.
“I think it’s time for the international community to say clearly to President Abbas: Stop spreading lies about Israel.
Lies that Israel wants to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, lies that Israel wants to tear down the Aksa Mosque and lies that Israel is executing Palestinians. All that is false,” he said.
“To generate hope, we have to stop the terrorism,” the prime minister continued. “To stop the terrorism, we have to stop the incitement.”
Kerry responded that it was necessary to “move beyond condemnations and rhetoric,” and said “it is absolutely critical to end all incitement and all violence and find a road forward to build the possibility, which is not there today, for a larger process.”
In Washington, meanwhile, the White House weighed in on Netanyahu’s remarks Tuesday that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1937, planted into Hitler’s mind the idea of exterminating European Jewry.
“The inflammatory rhetoric needs to stop,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, adding that the Obama administration has no doubt who was responsible for the Holocaust.
Netanyahu, before separate meetings during the day with Steinmeier and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, repeated what he told Kerry about the need for the international community to get Abbas to stop his incitement. Reflecting a degree of frustration with the EU, he said he hopes for “a sense of fairness from Europe to the predicament that Israel faces, a democracy fighting terrorism and incitement.”
Mogherini, speaking after a meeting she held with Steinmeier, announced that she would meet in Vienna on Friday with the other “Quartet principals” – Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a representative of UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon – to discuss the situation.
She said the goal of that meeting will be “to coordinate messages, to pass a strong message to the parties to calm down the situation on the ground, to tackle the situation of the holy sites seriously and with restraint, to deescalate the rhetoric, and to try to start implementing on the ground some positive steps that could lead to more confidence building.
“Unless we manage to establish some common ground for positive developments, we can only expect negative developments,” Mogherini said.
“Things don’t change for the better by themselves, we need to work on that diplomatically.”
Palestinian sources said Kerry would meet with Abbas in Amman on Friday evening.
The sources said Abbas was waiting to hear from Kerry about the outcome of his talks with Netanyahu, and that he would brief the secretary of state on the situation in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in wake of the recent violence.
According to the sources, Abbas will make it clear that the only way to end the violence is by halting Israel’s latest measures, including attempts to “change the status quo” on the Temple Mount.
Abbas will also repeat his demand for international protection for the Palestinians and to hold Israel fully responsible for the violence, the sources said. They added that Abbas would reiterate his readiness to resume peace talks with Israel as long as the Israeli government remains committed to the agreements signed with the Palestinians.
In a related development, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who is also in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, met in Paris with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and reiterated Israel’s opposition to a French proposal to station international observers on the Temple Mount, adding that the US and Jordan opposed the proposition as well.
Shalom said the proposal – at the outset – should have been drafted with input and agreement from Israel, Jordan and the US.
Fabius, according to Shalom’s office, said the proposal was not supposed to be put forward in the manner that it was, and that it was an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
The world needs to understand, Shalom said, “unilateral steps or actions without Israel’s agreement will not succeed, will fan the flames of distrust, and only harm progress in the peace process.”
Khaled Abu Toameh and Michael Wilner in Washington contributed to this report.