Netanyahu: I'm Willing to Meet Abbas to Restore Calm

Netanyahu tells U.S. not to draw false symmetry between Israel and Palestinian terrorists; Kerry condemns terror attacks after spokesperson causes storm by saying Israel may have used excessive force.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference on October 8, 2015, at his office in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference on October 8, 2015, at his office in Jerusalem.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he is willing to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab leaders to stop the current round of violence, and confirmed that the U.S. offered to broker talks in Jordan.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Abbas Thursday evening informing him of his intention to visit the region in the coming days to help calm the violence.

"I am completely open to a meeting with Abbas and Arab leaders. I think it is potentially useful because it might stop the wave of incitement," Netanyahu said during a press conference on Thursday at the Foreign Ministry.

"I have called on Abbas time and time again to renew peace talks without preconditions. I am willing to meet him, he is not willing to meet me and you ask me if I'm ready to renew negotiations - ask him," Netanyahu retorted after being asked about the stalemate in peace talks.

"This wave of attacks is not a result of lack of political horizon and not because of settlements wave. There is no such wave [of construction]," Netanyahu said defiantly, placing the blame for current violence on Palestinian incitement.

His comments also came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel executed 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra, who stabbed two Israelis on Friday. On Wednesday evening Abbas accused Israel of "executing" Ahmed, even though he was still alive.

Netanyahu blasted the Palestinian president's comments as lies and said that "the current campaign [of terror attacks] is the result of Palestinian incitement," he said, claiming "President Abbas continues to incite and lie."

He also told the U.S. not to draw what he called a false equivalence between Israelis and Palestinian terrorists, after a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said Israel might have used excessive force in responding to the recent string of terror attacks.

Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question about the ongoing crisis in Syria during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, on Sept. 19, 2015, in London.Credit: AP

"We expect our friends not to draw false symmetry between Israeli citizens and those who knife them to death," he said, adding that "There is no truth to the claim Israel used excessive force terror wave. We do what every country would have done."

Earlier at a speech at Indiana University Thursday, Kerry said that the U.S. "will continue to support Israel's right to protect itself." Kerry added that the U.S. strongly condemns terror attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, calling them unjustified.

Kerry made the comments amid a furor caused by the State Department Spokesperson John Kirby, who said in a press briefing Wednesday that the U.S. has received reports indicating the possibility the that Israeli security forces might have used excessive force in an attempt to quell the recent wave of terror attacks.

Kerry has said in recent days that he plans to visit the region to try to deescalate the situation. "There is a need to stop inflammatory rhetoric and provocations. I will travel to the region in the coming days and will try to stabilize the situation," he said.

Israeli ministers reacted angrily Thursday to Kirby's comments. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused the State Department of being “traditionally hostile toward the State of Israel,” while Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the United States had misread the situation.

At a daily press briefing on Wednesday, Kirby said that Israel – which has set up checkpoints in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to try to stem the attacks – has a right and responsibility to protect its citizens. But, he added, “Now, we have seen some – I wouldn’t call the checkpoints this – but we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force.

Earlier Wednesday, Kirby was also forced to retract a comment he made on Wednesday that Israel had violated the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Kirby initially made the statement during his daily briefing on Wednesday, but his comments caused a diplomatic storm and led to him issuing a Twitter clarification in which he walked back his remark.

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