President Obama argued, “it’s important for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli elected officials, and President Abbas, and other people in positions of power to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence, or anger, or misunderstanding” at a press conference on Friday.
Obama said, “With respect to Israel, obviously, we’re very concerned about the outbreak of violence, that initially is centered on Jerusalem, but we always are concerned about the spread of violence elsewhere. 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. We also believe that it’s important for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli elected officials, and President Abbas, and other people in positions of power 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. And I don’t think that it’s — I don’t think we can wait for all the issues that exist between Israelis and Palestinians to be settled in order for us to try to damp down the violence right now. I think my views are well known that, over time, the 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. Those talks, which Secretary Kerry put enormous effort in, and before that, a number of our envoys and Secretary Clinton put an enormous effort in, have stalled. And I think it’s going to be up to the parties, and we stand ready to assist, to see if they can restart a more constructive relationship. But in the meantime right now, everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren’t being killed.”
Obama also addressed comments made by Secretary of State John Kerry, stating, “what Secretary Kerry said was is that we have to end the violence, that Israel has a right to prevent its citizens from being subjected to random violence, that all parties have to lower the rhetoric, that the religious sites that are so important to three of the world’s major religions inside of Jerusalem need to be respected, and that the status quo that allowed shared worship in and around these spaces needed to be maintained. And then, I think, as an addition to those statements, what Secretary Kerry said, was is that the atmosphere, in which, there’s so much tension and suspicion between Palestinians and Israelis, obviously, creates the potential for more misunderstanding and triggers, and that’s something that has been true now for decades. And if we can make progress there, obviously, it’s going to help, but, there’s not a direct causation here, and what we do need to make sure is is that we’re focusing right now on ensuring that innocent people aren’t being killed.”
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