President Obama stressed at a press conference today that it’s “important for both” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding” in the region.
At a press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Obama — who’s made no secret of wanting a Mideast peace deal as one of his legacy issues — added that “I don’t think we can wait for all of the issues that exist between Israelis and Palestinians to be settled in order for us to try to tamp down the violence right now.”
“I think my views are well known that over time, the only way that Israel is going to be truly secure, and the only way the Palestinians are going be able to meet the aspirations of their people is if they are two states living side by side in peace and security. Those talks, which Secretary Kerry put an enormous effort in, and before that a number of our envoys and Secretary Clinton put enormous effort in, have stalled, and I think it’s gonna be up to the parties, and we stand ready to assist to see if they can restart a more constructive relationship,” he said.
“But in the meantime, right now, you know, everybody needs to focus on making sure that innocent people aren’t being killed.”
Obama disputed that Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israeli settlement construction for the “frustration” that led to the random stabbing attacks.
Kerry said at Harvard on Tuesday that “there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years” and “now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement” in the peace process.
“I think what Secretary Kerry said was, was that we have to end the violence, that Israel has a right to prevent its citizens from being subjected to random violence, that all parties have to lower the rhetoric, that the religious sites that are so important to three of the world’s major religions inside of Jerusalem need to be respected and that the status quo that allowed shared worship in and around these spaces needed to be maintained,” Obama said today.
“And then, I think, as an addition to those statements, what Secretary Kerry said was, is that the atmosphere in which there is so much tension and suspicion between Palestinians and Israelis obviously creates the potential for more misunderstanding and triggers, and that’s something that has been true now for decades,” he continued.
“And if we can make progress there, obviously it’s going to help, but, you know, there’s not a direct causation here, and — and what we need to make sure of is that we’re focusing now on — on ensuring that innocent people aren’t being killed.”