Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Berlin on Thursday morning with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding ways to stop the escalation of violence in Israel and the West Bank and to calm the situation.
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“We need to take steps that will take us beyond the rhetoric and the condemnations,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting, which took place about an hour after a stabbing attack by terrorists in Beit Shemesh in which an Israeli was wounded.
A senior official in Kerry’s entourage told reporters that the secretary of state is interested in lowering the tone and the accusations in the public statements that Israelis and Palestinians are directing at one another.
Over the past 24 hours, there has been a storm of controversy over statements by Netanyahu regarding the role of Palestinian mufti Amin Al-Husseini in the Holocaust. Senior American officials hinted on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s comments were inflaming the atmosphere, and they called on all sides to refrain from provocative or accusatory comments or actions that would feed the violence.
A senior official accompanying Kerry said at the secretary’s meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman on Friday, Kerry intends to clarify with each of them how they view the significance of the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in an effort to come to a joint understanding on the issue and to calm the situation on the ground.
“It is critical that all incitement and violence stop and that we find a road that is not there today to go for a broader process,” Kerry said, adding that he had spoken on Wednesday to King Abdullah and few days ago with President Abbas. "I believe they both want to deescalate", he said.
For his part, at the beginning of their meeting, Netanyahu told Kerry: “It is time for the international community to tell President Abbas to stop spreading lies that Israel wants to change the status quo or destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. We are the ones who maintain the status quo and protect the holy sites in Jerusalem. We defend ourselves like every democracy would do in the face of such terror attacks. To generate hope we need to stop terror and in order to stop terror we need to stop incitement.”
Netanyahu and Kerry's meeting lasted four hours, according to a senior Israeli official. The official added that Netanyahu and Kerry agreed that there incitement needs to end, tensions need to be eased, and calm must be restored. Netanyahu also reiterated, according to the source, that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.
At the end of their meeting, Kerry said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the proposals he discussed with Netanyahu for calming tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Kerry said he will need to bring these proposals before Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his meetings with them this weekend.