In the run-up to his meeting tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and compared his behavior to that of Hamas and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“President Abbas has joined ISIS and Hamas in claiming that Israel threatens the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Netanyahu said, at a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was making a surprise visit to Israel. “This, Mr. Secretary, is a total lie,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu’s remarks indicate the depth of the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians over the Temple Mount and the degree of difficulty Kerry will have in rolling back the diplomatic row between the two sides. Netanyahu is to leave Wednesday afternoon for Berlin and will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel this evening. On Thursday he will meet Kerry and EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
Netanyahu stressed in his remarks that Israel defends the holy places of all religions and has been maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, accusing the Palestinians of violating it by bringing explosives into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, by trying to block Jewish and Christian access to the Mount, and by asking UNESCO to vote on a resolution stating that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and is thus holy to Islam and has no link to Judaism.
“I believe it’s time to tell the truth about the causes of Palestinian terrorism. It’s not the settlements; it’s not the peace process. It’s the desire to destroy the state of Israel, pure and simple,” Netanyahu said. “President Abbas has unfortunately been fanning the flames."
Netanyahu quoted Abbas, who said on Palestinian last month that he "welcomes ‘every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.’" The prime minister stressed: That’s a quote. President Abbas has not condemned any of the 30 terror attacks against Israel in the last month and he continues to glorify terrorists as heroes."
“If the international community truly wants to help end the bloodshed and the violence, I believe it must affirm Israel’s proven commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount,” the prime minister said. “It must support Israel’s right to self-defense, and it must hold President Abbas accountable for his dangerous words.”
Ban, who has meetings planned in Ramallah today, offered his sympathy to the victims of the recent terror attacks. “I deplore random attacks against civilians,” he said, and said he planned to meet with some of the victims and their families.
“I understand the fear and anger felt by many Israelis in the current environment, as well as the duty that weighs upon you, Mr. Prime Minister, to ensure that your citizens can enjoy safety and security,” Ban said. “Clearly those attacks by individuals are not taking place in a vacuum. Over the past weeks I have been deeply troubled by statements from Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, praising such heinous attacks.”
He noted that in his last conversation with Abbas he had expressed his deep concern about instances of inflammatory rhetoric “and urged all to refrain from it.” He also voiced his protest about the torching of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus last week, “and welcomed Abbas’ condemnation of that incident.”
He called on Israel to do its utmost to calm the situation, adding, “I welcome the recent statement by you, Mr. Prime Minister, and also members of your government and prominent rabbis, expressing Israel’s commitment to preservation of the historic status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.”
After urging Israel to reach out to Jordan to help maintain the status quo on Temple Mount, he said, “The security challenges your government is currently facing raises many complicated dilemmas and may require a tightening of security measures. However, security measures can be counterproductive if they are applied without special efforts to defuse situations before people lose their lives. If use of force is not properly calibrated it may breed the very frustrations and anxieties from which violence tends to erupt. I urge Israel as a democratic state to guard against such incidents, and conduct thorough investigations when necessary."
Earlier on Tuesday, in an address to the World Zionist Congress, Netanyahu said that contrary to international claims that a wave of construction in the settlements led to the current violence, settlement construction has actually slowed since he took office in 2009.
“There are people who will not like these figures, but there is no push, but a decline,” the prime minister said.