US Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday, urging the PA to stop inciting violence against Israelis and calling for “firm and creative leadership” from both sides to end the bloodshed.
In a speech about US foreign policy in the Middle East at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Kerry addressed a wide range of subjects, from the Iran nuclear deal to Islamic State, Tunisian democracy, and the ongoing surge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The latest bloodshed “hurts everyone,” he said, but emphasized that Washington supports “Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens.”
At the same time, Kerry called for action by both sides to prevent a further escalation of violence.
The past month has seen near daily Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers and regular, often-deadly clashes between Palestinians and IDF troops in the West Bank.
Kerry chastised Israeli and Palestinian leaders, bemoaning the growing lack of faith in the current leadership on each side. “Palestinians don’t have belief, Israelis don’t have belief,” he said.
“It is vital Israel take steps that empower Palestinian leaders to improve economic opportunities, quality of life for their people,” the secretary of state said, less than a week after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin. “It is equally important for Palestinian leaders to cease the incitement of violence and to offer something more than rhetoric.”
“Firm and creative leadership on both sides is absolutely essential,” Kerry added. “A two-state solution with strong security protections remains the only viable alternative and for anybody who thinks otherwise, you can measure what unitary looks like by just looking at what’s been going on just in the last weeks.”
The US remains “absolutely prepared to do what we can to make that two states, two peoples living side-by-side in peace and security, to make it possible,” Kerry said. “I can’t imagine the notion of just throwing up your hands and walking away and just saying good luck,” he added.
“The Middle East matters, and it matters way beyond oil,” he added.
“My friends, the potential of this region to be a driving financial center… is simply extraordinary.” The Mideast, he explained, has “the world’s greatest tourist attractions,” and “has something there for anybody.”
Neighboring countries are “eager to trade” with Middle East countries, said Kerry. “Sadly, we have become so accustomed to problems in the Middle East” that we forget its “opportunity.”
“The Middle East today is still marred by the sounds and spectacle of violence, but it need not be, because the region is also pulsating with life,” he insisted. “It is the home of populations that are youthful, energetic, forward looking. It is in them that we place our faith, it is for them that we dedicate our collective efforts and it is with them that the US is determined to turn back the destroyers and build a future characterized by prosperity, peace, and by dignity for all people.”