US Secretary John Kerry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Tuesday to discuss steps to stem the current wave of violence sweeping Israel and the West Bank.
“I am here today to talk with the prime minister about ways how we can work together — all of us, the international community — to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence and to find a way forward to restore calm and begin to provide the opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and for their families,” Kerry said at the beginning of the meeting.
It was Kerry’s first visit in Jerusalem in over a year. He is scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin later on Tuesday before heading to Ramallah for a sit-down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. According to a report in the Haaretz daily, Netanyahu was expected to demand of Kerry that the US accept Israeli construction in the settlement blocs in exchange for a series of measures in the West Bank to calm recent tensions with the Palestinians.
In their public statements, however, Kerry and Netanyahu did not address the issue, focusing on general condemnations of terrorism and vows to fight it wherever it occurs.
“There can be no peace when we have an onslaught of terror — not here, not anywhere else in the world, which is experiencing this same assault by militant Islamists and the forces of terror,” Netanyahu told Kerry. “Israel is fighting these forces every hour.”
Jerusalem is combating the terrorists themselves in the field as well as sources of incitement, the prime minister added. “We believe that the entire international community should support this effort. It’s not only our battle; it’s everyone’s battle. It’s the battle of civilization against barbarism.”
Kerry, who came to Israel after visiting the United Arab Emirates, said his arrival comes at a “very troubled” time.
“Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence; with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars. It is very clear to us that the terrorism, these acts of terrorism, which have been taking place deserve the condemnation that they are receiving. And today I express complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation,” Kerry stated.
“Israel has every right in the world to defend itself. It has an obligation to defend itself. And it will and it is.”
Washington’s top diplomat, a former senator from Massachusetts, mentioned that “regrettably, several Americans” were killed in the recent violence, paying tribute to Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Sharon, Massachusetts, who was gunned down Thursday in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem.
“A young man who came here out of high school, ready to go to college, excited about his future,” Kerry said. “And yesterday his family was sitting shiva and I talked to them and heard their feelings, the feelings of any parent for the loss of a child.”