Israel rejects Quartet report ‘myths’ as PA blasts incitement criticism
PM says settlements are not obstacle to peace; Erekat: ‘People under occupation and a foreign military occupier’ do not share blame
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday rejected an appeal by the Middle East Quartet for Israel to halt settlement construction.
A report issued by the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations said settlements diminished chances for a process leading to Palestinian statehood.
But a statement from Netanyahu’s office said the report only “perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace. When Israel froze settlements (between 2009-10), it did not get peace.”
The much-awaited Friday report said that “Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development.”
Such actions were “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” said the report, which is intended to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been comatose since a US initiative collapsed in April 2014.
The report also addressed the Palestinian wave of violence, resulting since October in the deaths of at least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese. Israel says more than two-thirds of the Palestinians killed died in the act of attacking Israelis.
“The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism,” the Quartet said.
The report said that “regrettably,” Palestinian leaders “have not consistently and clearly condemned specific terrorist attacks” while streets and squares have been named after Palestinians who have carried out the violence.
Netanyahu praised that aspect of the report. Israel, he said Friday, “welcomes the Quartet’s recognition of the centrality of Palestinian incitement and violence to the perpetuation of the conflict. This culture of hatred poisons minds and destroys lives and stands as the single greatest obstacle to progress towards peace.”
He added that “Palestinian praise for murderers today inspires those who will strike tomorrow,” and its stance in this regard “reflects the moral bankruptcy of the Palestinian leadership and leaves little doubt about its true intentions.”
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, expressed his disappointment that the report criticized both sides rather than only Israel.
“It does not meet our expectations as a nation living under a foreign colonial military occupation,” he said in an initial Palestinian reaction. He criticized its attempt “to equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier. ”
Among the recommendations outlined in the report, the Quartet urged Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and called for restoring Palestinian Authority control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Israel maintains the blockade to prevent terror group Hamas from importing weaponry into Gaza for use against Israel.
The report was issued as Israel reels from an upsurge in terrorism. A 13-year-old Israeli girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel was stabbed to death in her bed in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on Thursday morning by a teen Palestinian terrorist, and an Israeli father was shot dead in a drive-by terrorist shooting on Friday in which his wife and children were also hurt.