Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters today that Israel has a right to defend itself, but discouraged against “self-help” responses to random stabbing attacks from Palestinians.
Israeli authorities have encouraged citizens with gun permits to carry when they’re out and about, as they can possibly stop an attacker before police can get on the scene.
Israel Army Radio reported today that the internal security ministry phone service “collapsed” from citizens inundating the ministry with gun permit requests. They’ve doubled the number of workers at the ministry to field the requests.
Appearing at a press conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart, Kerry again used the recent spate of violence in Jerusalem to call for a two-state solution.
“Security and diplomacy go hand in hand. There is not a time for one and then the other, really there is an importance to both. We want to see calm restored and we want to see the violence stop. And I think everybody in Israel and in the region would like to see both of those things happen,” Kerry said.
“We continue to urge everybody to exercise restraint and restrain from any kind of self-help in terms of the violence, and Israel has every right in the world to protect its citizens, as it has been, from random acts of violence. But in my conversations with the prime minister, as well as with King Abdullah and the foreign minister of Jordan, they have expressed the desire to try to see this process be able to find a way of making certain that everybody is clear about what is happening with respect to the Temple Mount.”
Kerry added that “Israel has made it clear to me that they do not intend to and have not changed the status quo, and I think it’s important for me to meet with the prime minister and talk about the road ahead.”
“We have a longstanding, extremely close, very important relationship with respect to Israel’s security, and security will be front and center in our discussion. And obviously, the United States remains deeply concerned about and engaged in efforts to help Israel with respect to its security. But we also share a global interest in seeing the region find a way forward to avoid this kind of confrontation and senseless loss of life. So it is important to have that kind of discussion at the same time,” he said.
“I don’t have specific expectations except to try to move things forward. And it would depend on the conversations themselves as to what it is that we’re able to define in the context of steps that might or might not be taken to help people understand that in fact leaders are leading and making a serious effort to try to resolve the current level of conflict.”
Last week CNN’s Chris Cuomo tried to challenge Netanyahu’s spokesman on guns, charging that “the idea of the police saying to civilians, ‘arm yourselves, that’s how big the threat is, that’s how imminent violence is,’ seems to be, you know, a very severe sentiment.”
Spokesman Mark Regev noted that Israel has tough gun ownership rules, “and so if you pass those tests and you legally have a firearm, the police are suggesting that you carry that firearm, because of the security situation.”
“That’s not for every member of the public. That’s for people who have those licenses,” Regev said. “And I’d remind you, Chris, we, of course, have compulsory military service in Israel. A lot of those people with licenses, if not all of them, have had military training and know how to use that weapon effectively.”