British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to pursue peace talks and end their conflict, if necessary by carrying out “unpopular” measures.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Cameron said he believed peace was achievable, despite the many difficulties which still lay ahead of Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“They both will have to take difficult and unpalatable and sometimes unpopular decisions for their constituencies in order to achieve that settlement, but I sense it’s possible,” Cameron said. “I’m not saying it’s definite or even probable, but it’s certainly possible.”
He acknowledged that the two sides still had “serious disagreements” that would have to be tackled before a deal could be reached.
Cameron condemned the downpour of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel on Wednesday and Thursday, but also deplored the humanitarian situation in the Strip.
“The situation in Gaza is unacceptable. There are 1.7 million people living in Gaza, a huge number are reliant for their life on food aid, there is extremely high unemployment, there is very low provision of healthcare.”
Abbas too condemned the rocket fire, but implied that Israel’s airstrikes on the Strip were unjust as well. “We condemn all military escalation, including rockets,” Abbas said.
The PA president went on to say that an escalation in the region would be detrimental to the peace process. “We still hope to reach an actual achievement from the talks during the prescribed period,” he said, according to news site Walla. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are set to end next month, and US Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking both sides’ agreement to continue the negotiations on the basis of a new “framework” agreement.
Abbas’s statements came hours after Netanyahu criticized him for initially condemning Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on the Strip, but not the original Islamic Jihad rocket fire from Gaza.
On Wednesday, over 60 rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel, in the largest barrage since November 2012. Israel responded by striking 29 targets in Gaza from the air. Several more rockets were fired Thursday, prompting further IAF strikes, as a fragile ceasefire came into force.
Cameron, who spoke in the Knesset and met with Netanyahu Wednesday, also visited Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity Thursday, before leaving the region.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report