President Barack Obama on Friday expressed concern about the outbreak of violence centered in Jerusalem and called on Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders to tamp down inflammatory rhetoric.
“We are very concerned about the outbreak of violence,” Obama said at a news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, according to the AFP news agency.
“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,” he added.
“We also believe that it’s important for both Prime Minister (Binyamin) Netanyahu and Israeli elected officials, and [PA chairman Mahmoud] Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding,” said Obama.
Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in the violence so far, and fresh protests erupted Friday after Palestinian Arabs torched Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Shechem.
“Over time, the only way that Israel is going to be truly secure, and the only way the Palestinians will be able to meet the aspirations of their people, is if they are two states living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said, according to AFP.
But right now, he said, “everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren’t being killed.”
Earlier on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and reiterated his remarks in an interview on NPR radio, in which he said that Israelis have the right to defend themselves against violence in Jerusalem’s Old City and everywhere.
Kerry also told Netanyahu that the Palestinians must end the incitement and that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas must condemn the violence in a loud and clear voice, as he had said in that same interview.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, later told CNN that the two agreed to try to meet in Berlin next week, during Netanyahu’s visit to the German capital where he will hold a working meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.