If the international community truly wants to help end the current bloodshed, it should affirm Israel’s proven commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount, support Israel’s right of self-defense, and hold PA President Mahmoud Abbas accountable for his dangerous incitement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday evening.
Ban arrived in Jerusalem earlier in the day hoping to help tamp down the violence.
He is scheduled, over the next couple days, to meet with Abbas, as well as with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman.
Netanyahu placed the blame for the violence on Abbas for “joining Hamas and ISIS in claiming that Israel is threatening the Aksa Mosque.” This is a “total lie,” the prime minister said.
Both Netanyahu and Ban delivered statements before their meeting, and the premier said it was the Palestinians who were disturbing the status quo by bringing explosives into the mosques on the Temple Mount; violently keeping Jews and Christians from visiting there; and working to convince UNESCO to deny the Jews’ historical connection to the Western Wall.
“I think it is time to tell the truth about Palestinian terrorism,” Netanyahu said. “It is not about the settlements, it is not about the peace process, it is the desire to destroy the State of Israel, pure and simple.”
Ban, who said he understood the “pain and anger felt by many Israelis in the current environment,” said that “clearly these attacks against individuals are not taking place in a vacuum.”
He added that he has been “deeply troubled” by statements made by Hamas and Islamic Jihad praising the attacks, and had voiced his “deep concern” in a conversation with Abbas over “instances of inflammatory rhetoric.”
Ban urged the government to do its utmost to calm down the situation, and said he welcomed statements by Netanyahu, other ministers and prominent rabbis about maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.
The security challenges Israel is facing raises many “complicated dilemmas and may require tightening security measures,” Ban said. But, he added, these measures must be carefully calibrated to protect innocent lives, and where innocent lives are lost Israel should conduct full investigations.
“Israelis and Palestinians stand on the brink of another catastrophic period of violence.
We need to keep the situation from escalating into a religious conflict with potential regional implications,” he said.
“We must create the conditions for meaningful negotiations that will end the occupation and realize the aspirations of both peoples. The only way to end this conflict is through negotiations that produce visible, meaningful results. Unilateral actions from either side will only perpetuate a downward spiral.”
The generation born after the 1993 Oslo Accords “expects and wants” peace, Ban said.
“We cannot fail them. There can be no deescalation of violence, without a reemergence of hope.”
On Monday, before leaving for Israel from a visit to Slovakia, Ban recorded a video message to Israelis and Palestinians saying, “Enough is enough,” and that he was “dismayed, as we all should be, when I see young people, children, picking up weapons and seeking to kill.”
In the video, Ban first addressed Palestinian youth.
“I understand your frustration. I know your hopes for peace have been dashed countless times,” he said. “You are angry at the continued occupation and expansion of settlements.
Many of you are disappointed in your leaders and in us, the international community, because of our inability to end this occupation.
“I am not asking you to be passive, but you must put down the weapons of despair,” he said.
To Israelis, he said he appreciated their “genuine concern about peace and security” and understood their anger.
“When children are afraid to go to school, when anyone on the street is a potential victim, security is rightly your immediate priority,” he said. “But walls, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need and must have.”
According to Ban, “there is no so-called ‘security” solution’” but there is a need for a political horizon to “break this cycle of violence and fear.”
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that when Abbas meets with Ban he will brief him on Israel’s recent measures against Palestinians, including settler “assaults.”
Abbas would demand that the PA’s request for international protection be brought before the Security Council as soon as possible, Malki said.
The Palestinians expected Ban to contribute to “reining in” Israel and preventing it from violating international law and carrying out “killings” of Palestinians, Malki said.
He said Abbas also was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on Friday to discuss ways of easing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry is scheduled to meet on Thursday in Berlin with Netanyahu, who will leave for the German capital on Wednesday, and meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel soon after arriving.
Malki said he was planning to meet, at the end of the month, with the prosecutor-general of the International Criminal Court to give her a report about Israeli “field executions” of Palestinians in recent weeks.
Abbas, meanwhile, continued to blame Israel for the violence, saying the “intransigence” of the government and the absence of a political horizon had “pushed our youth toward despair, stress and frustration.”
Abbas, speaking in Ramallah during a joint press with visiting Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaite, also accused the government and settlers of “stepping up their aggressive attacks” on Palestinians.
The Palestinians were living in “harsh and intolerable conditions” as a result of the continuation of “occupation,” Abbas said.
The PA cabinet, which held its weekly meeting in Ramallah, also repeated the claim that Israel was carrying out summary executions of innocent Palestinians “under the pretext that they tried to carry out stabbing operations.”
The PA government held the Israeli government fully responsible for the “upsurge in crimes and killings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
It reiterated its demand for an international commission of inquiry to investigate Israeli “crimes.” Israel’s current security measures would not stop the “uprising” of the Palestinians, it said.
The PA government said it was opposed to the construction of security barriers between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, saying this was a form of collective punishment against Arab residents.
In a related development, Netanyahu visited the IDF’s Gaza Division close to Kibbutz Re’im and, at a point overlooking the central Gaza Strip, said Israel is engaged in a three-front battle, but that the Gaza front is “under control.”
“We are carrying out a struggle over Israel’s security on a number of fronts,” he said, accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, and other top IDF officials.
The prime minister enumerated these fronts as “first of all, in preserving the quiet on the Temple Mount; secondly, in Judea and Samaria; and thirdly, in Gaza.”
Each of these fronts “could ignite and set the other ones ablaze,” he said, adding that his impression from his visit to the South is that “the situation here is under control.”
On each front, the government’s policy is to bring about calm by acting against those carrying out attacks in a “responsible and proportionate manner, with force – a great deal of force where needed,” he said.
Netanyahu said it was made clear to Hamas that Israel holds it responsible for everything happening inside Gaza and coming out of the Strip, and that Jerusalem will not tolerate a breach of the border and an attack on Israel or its citizens.
“My impression is that this message was heard loud and clear,” he said.
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