Kerry, Netanyahu to meet as Obama acknowledges Israel’s right to defend its citizens

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after President Barack Obama called on Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to ‘tamp down the rhetoric’ feeding the current violence in Israel.

Obama acknowledged Israel’s right to defend its citizens from a wave of attacks by Palestinians on Israeli citizens.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people, and believe that Israel has a right to maintain basic law and order, and protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence on the streets,” Obama said Friday at the White House during a news conference with the president of South Korea.

Obama called on Netanyahu and Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and other officials on both sides, to “try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding, and try to get all people in Israel and in the West Bank to recognize that this kind of random violence isn’t going to result in anything other than more hardship and more insecurity.”


He called again for a resumption of the peace process, toward a two-state solution.

“(T)he only way that Israel is going to be truly secure and the only way that the Palestinians are going to be able to meet the aspirations of their people is if there are two states living side by side in peace and security,” he said, adding, “right now, everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren’t being killed.”

Netanyahu and Kerry will meet this week in Germany, German and Israeli officials announced. Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Germany on Wednesday to discuss the current crisis in Israel with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Kerry is traveling in Europe this week.

Kerry spoke Friday by phone with Netanyahu in what the State Department called in a statement a “constructive conversation …about how best to end the recent wave of violence, and to offer U.S. support for efforts to restore calm as soon as possible.” Kerry reiterated the United States’ “strong condemnation of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians and support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” according to the statement.

In a conversation Friday with Abbas, Kerry “reiterated the importance of avoiding further violence and preventing inflammatory rhetoric, accusations and actions that will increase tensions,” according to a State Department statement about the call.

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