The State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss “the importance of deescalating tension” in Jerusalem.
“The secretary emphasized the importance of refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserving the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today. “He also spoke with President Abbas this morning. He expressed his serious concern about the escalating tensions in Jerusalem.”
“He stressed the importance of both sides taking steps to calm the situation, refrain from actions and rhetoric that could inflame the situation and work cooperatively to lower tensions and discourage violence.”
Given Kerry’s “strong relationship” with leaders involved, Psaki said, he felt talking with both was “an important component of what we’re doing.”
Yehuda Glick, a U.S.-born activist who has campaigned for the right of Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, was hit in a drive-by shooting Wednesday night after attending a conference about the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel temporarily closed the Temple Mount in response as Palestinian jihadists called for more attacks.
The State Department chided Israel, saying “we believe that Muslim worshippers should be able to worship” at the al-Aqsa mosque.
Kerry is scheduled to meet Monday with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to “discuss the way forward for the Middle East, the situation in Gaza, and lowering tensions in Jerusalem.”
Psaki was prodded on whether the Kerry-Netanyahu conversation included discussion of a senior administration official telling The Atlantic that Bibi is a “chickenshit” and “coward.”
“Let me check with him. I didn’t have a chance to ask him that question this morning,” Psaki said, not confirming reports in Israel that Kerry had apologized for the comments.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry reiterated what he said many times publicly, which was that these don’t represent his views or the president’s views. But I’ll check with him,” she said. “He likely reiterated just as I said.”
Pro-Paletinian lobbying group J Street sent out a fundraising email today on behalf of Senate Democratic candidates Michelle Nunn (Ga.), Bruce Braley (Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Mark Udall (Colo.), warning of “forces hostile to Middle East diplomacy” taking control of the upper chamber.
“Just this week, media reports indicated that Prime Minister Netanyahu hopes to pit Congress against the Obama Administration to prevent a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran or the Palestinians. You can bet he’s counting on the Senate falling into neocon hands to allow for such an outcome,” the email said.
“But with victories for Michelle, Bruce, Jeanne and Mark we can save the Senate and score a victory for diplomacy this Tuesday.”