In the wake of the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s angry letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry about Israel’s new settlement building amid the resumption of peace talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his own letter to Kerry over the weekend, lambasting the Palestinians for failing to curb incitement against Israel.
Netanyahu wrote to Kerry that leading Palestinian Authority officials were calling for Israel’s destruction even after peace talks resumed on July 31 in Washington — the first major effort since negotiations broke down in 2008.
“Incitement and peace don’t go together,” Netanyahu wrote, explaining that new generations of Palestinians were being taught to hate Israel, further fueling the cycle of violence.
“Instead of educating the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, the education of hate poisons them against Israel and lays the groundwork for continued violence and terror,” he wrote.
Netanyahu asserted, for example, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s comment that a future Palestinian state wouldn’t have a single Israeli in it — which Abbas made as peace talks kicked off in Washington two weeks ago — was a form of incitement.
He also pointed out that an anchor on the PA’s official news channel stated, during a broadcast of the Barcelona soccer team’s visit to the West Bank last week, that the state of Palestine would extend from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat, i.e. the entire length of Israel, constituting another incendiary statement.
Last week, during a trip to Israel by a delegation of 36 House Democrats to Israel, Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), the second-ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives, addressed the issue of Palestinian incitement, particularly youth being taught hateful messages about Israelis.
“Erekat talked about the necessity to live together with mutual respect,” Hoyer said about his meeting with the Palestinian chief negotiator at a Jerusalem press conference. “I asked him whether their school curriculum would comport with that objective… He said they haven’t done so perfectly, but that he believes they’re working on reaching that objective.”
Speaking during the AIPAC-affiliated trip, Hoyer said that there has been “too much teaching of violence, too much perpetration of violence, and too much teaching of prejudice,” in the Middle East and that “no group on Earth” has been the object of as much discrimination and hate as the Jews.
Hoyer told reporters he would follow up on the issue with the State Department and other officials when back in Washington.
In his letter to Kerry Thursday, Erekat said the Palestinians have a hard time understanding how peace talks can move forward while settlements expand. He said the Palestinians see the move as direct defiance of the US role in facilitating negotiations.
Israel’s latest settlement announcements were an indication of “Israel’s bad faith and lack of seriousness” in the talks, Erekat stated. He urged Kerry to “take the necessary action to ensure that Israel does not advance any of its settlement plans, and abides by its legal obligations and commitments.”
Addressing Israel’s expansion of settlements during peace talks, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US officials were speaking with the Israeli government to express concern about the settlements.
“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legitimize settlement outposts,” Psaki said. “The secretary has made clear that he believes both of the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith, and are committed to working together to make progress.”
Settlements have long been a contentious issue between the Palestinians and Israelis.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967. The renewed talks are to draw Israel’s borders with such a state. Since 1967, Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank — deemed illegal by most of the international community. Some 560,000 Israelis live across the pre-1967 Green Line in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
On Thursday, a military official confirmed that the Defense Ministry had approved construction plans for more than 1,000 new apartments in settlements. This means the plans move forward, but still require final approval before construction can begin.
Earlier last week, the Cabinet expanded its list of West Bank settlements eligible for government subsidies. The Cabinet approved a range of housing subsidies and loans for more than 600 Israeli communities deemed “national priority areas,” including poor towns and 91 settlements.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.