U.S. Attempting to Prevent Escalation of Violence Across West Bank

American officials say quick and strong condemnation of Palestinian teen's murder part of effort to quell rising tensions; John Kerry calls on Netanyahu to discuss escalation in Jerusalem.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A Palestinian argues with Israeli border police in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.
A Palestinian argues with Israeli border police in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The United States is attempting to stop the escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians before it turns into a violent confrontation across the West Bank. Senior American officials noted that these efforts form the background to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice's condemnations of the murder of a Palestinian teenager on Wednesday, even while the police investigation was still in its early stages.

The officials added that though the background to the murder is still unclear, its timing, shortly after the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israelis, has the potential of sparking a much wider conflagration.

One of the officials stressed that the United States has blamed no parties for the Palestinian teen's murder, and that the quick condemnation was issued in attempt to calm the atmosphere.

In a series of tweets made from her personal Twitter account, Rice, U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser, offered the U.S. government's condolences to the Palestinian boy's family and to the Palestinian people. In her statements Rice hinted to the Israeli government that the U.S. expects a swift and thorough investigation into the matter.

Rice tweeted: "Perpetrators must be brought to justice. U.S. paying close attention to investigation. We call on all parties to avoid an atmosphere of revenge and retribution."

Several minutes after Rice's tweets, Kerry also issued a statement. "The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms the despicable murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir," Kerry said. "There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people."

Kerry noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement calling the public against "taking the law into its own hands," added that Israel has launched an investigation into the matter, and stressed that both sides must make every effort to prevent further violence and bring the murderers to justice.

"At this tense and dangerous moment, all parties must do everything to protect the innocent," he said. "Israelis and Palestinians must act with restraint and reason and avoid retribution."

Later on Wednesday, Kerry also called Netanyahu to discuss the increasing violence in Jerusalem following the murder.

At the same time as Kerry and Rice's statements, top American officials held talks with the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem and with its Palestinian counterpart, relaying similar messages intended to quell the tensions on the ground.

On Wednesday evening, the security cabinet convened in Tel Aviv for the third time in 72 hours to discuss the escalation in Jerusalem and the steps that should be taken following the murder of the three kidnapped Israelis.

On Tuesday night, the cabinet met for three hours but made no decision as to a response to the murders. During the meeting, the ministers were asked to refrain from issuing any statements to the media, after many details were leaked from Monday's cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu has not issued a condemnation of the Palestinian boy's murder, sufficing with a statement saying that he talked with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and asked for the investigators to act quickly "to find who's behind the despicable murder, and what the background to the act is." Netanyahu called on all sides not to take the law into their own hands. "Israel is a state of law and everyone is obligated to act in accordance with the law."

Ramallah was not impressed with Netanyahu's statement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas leveled blame for the teen's murder on Israel and called on Netanyahu to "condemn the kidnapping and murder of the boy, the same as he (Abbas, B.R.) condemned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens."

Abbas called on the Israeli government "to act immediately and take real steps to stop the settlers' aggression and the chaos caused by Israeli aggression – which has led to the killing of 15 Palestinian citizens since the beginning of June."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference June 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt.Credit: AFP

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