Netanyahu to Kerry: Palestinians Inciting Against Israel Even After Renewal of Talks

In response to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's demand to stop Israeli settlement expansion, Netanyahu says Palestinians educating next generation to hate Israel.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

After chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that construction in the settlements would harm the peace process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of his own to Kerry over the weekend. In it, Netanyahu said that the Palestinians were still inciting against Israel even after the peace process had been renewed.

Officials in Netanyahu’s bureau said that the prime minister protested to Kerry that officials in the Palestinian Authority were continuing to call for Israel’s destruction even after the parties resumed negotiations.

Incitement and peace do not go together, Netanyahu wrote Kerry. Netanyahu added that instead of educating the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, Palestinians were being educated to hate Israel, which laid the foundation for continued violence and terror.

Officials in Netanyahu’s bureau said Netanyahu was referring to remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Egyptian journalists last week, while talks were being resumed in Washington. Abbas had said that he was opposed to the presence of even one Israeli in the future Palestinian state. Netanyahu claimed that the remark constitutes incitement against Israel.

Netanyahu included in his letter to Kerry other examples of what he calls incitement against Israel. Among them is a quote from an anchor on the Palestinian state television station during a broadcast about the Barcelona soccer team’s visit to the West Bank. In that broadcast, the anchor defined Palestine as “extending from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat,” and not only within the 1967 borders.

Netanyahu said in his letter that before the game against Barcelona, a Palestinian singer performed a song containing the words: “My land Palestine, look to Safed and Tiberias, send greetings to the sea of Acre and Haifa, don’t forget Nazareth, and tell Beit She’an its people will return.”

A senior Palestinian official close to Abbas said Netanyahu’s letter was “surprising and manipulative.” He said that Netanyahu also certainly wouldn’t want Palestinian or foreign soldiers in Israel’s sovereign territory. “What damages the trust is construction in the settlements and continued incitement by senior Israeli ministers such as Naftali Bennett’s remarks about the Palestinian state as shrapnel in the posterior,” the senior Palestinian official said.

“Netanyahu did not respond at the time to those remarks in any way. He would do well to look in the mirror at the conduct of his government instead of writing such a letter,” the official said.

In Erekat’s letter, he demanded that Kerry stop Israel from moving forward on plans for new settlement construction. Erekat did not threaten to boycott the talks, but warned that unless settlement expansion is stopped, he finds it hard to see how negotiations can “bring about progress towards a peace agreement.” The letter details several plans that Israel announced this week, including construction of 63 housing units in East Jerusalem’s Jabal Mukkaber neighborhood; construction of 878 units in various West Bank settlements, almost all of them outside the major settlement blocs; and the cabinet’s decision to include additional settlements on Israel’s list of national priority areas, which will entitle them to various benefits.

Claiming that the settlements violate both the Geneva Convention and Israel’s obligations under the Oslo Accords, Erekat termed these announcements evidence of “Israel’s bad faith and lack of seriousness,” as well as a direct slap in the face to Washington’s mediation efforts. He therefore urged Kerry to “take the necessary action to ensure that Israel does not advance any of its settlement plans, and abides by its legal obligations and commitments.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, also urged Kerry yesterday to take “real action” against Israel, which she accused of “openly disrupting” his peacemaking efforts. In a press statement, she charged that Israel was “deliberately destroying the two-state solution and killing any sort of hope,” and warned that “in absence of a clear international response, our duty is to protect our land and our people with the rightful tools of international legitimacy we have gained through statehood.”

A senior Palestinian official explained that the Palestinian leadership is already under heavy pressure from its public for having agreed to resume direct talks with Israel with no guarantee that they will bear any fruit, and the announcement of the new settlement construction merely increases this pressure.

“The secretary of state must now prove that the administration in Washington is an unbiased mediator and patron, and isn’t bowing to Israeli dictates,” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Washington “does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity” and has taken up the issue with Israel.

Meanwhile, the special ministerial committee on the release of Palestinian prisoners is to meet Sunday to decide which 26 Palestinian prisoners will be the first to be freed, this Tuesday. All the prisoners to be released were convicted of murdering Israelis in terror attacks that took place before the Oslo Accords were signed. After the meeting, the names of the prisoners to be freed will be posted on the Israel Prison Service website, to allow those who wish to petition the High Court of Justice to do so within 48 hours.

During the next eight months, approximately 80 more Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel since before Oslo are to be released, in three groups every two to three months. They will be released in accordance with the recommendations of the Shin Bet security service regarding danger they pose. Israel may ask in the coming rounds of prisoner releases that some of the prisoners be kept out of the Gaza Strip or be deported abroad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with PM Benjamin Netanyahu in his office, April 8, 2013.Credit: Matty Stern / U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

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