Settlements not a 'direct causation' of new violence

Obama backs Israel’s right to ‘protect its citizens from knife attacks’

President urges PM and Abbas to get their peoples to recognize that ‘random violence’ only brings ‘more hardship’

President Barack Obama answers questions during a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama answers questions during a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

US President Barack Obama on Friday condemned “violence directed against innocent people” in the latest surge of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and stressed Israel’s “right to maintain basic law and order and protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence on the streets.”

He also dismissed the notion of settlements as “a direct causation” of the spate of Palestinian terror attacks.

However, the president also reiterated his long-held belief that the only way Israel would be secure, and the Palestinians would meet their aspirations, was via a two-state solution. Indicating that the US was not about to start a new initiative in that direction, he said “it’s going to be up to the parties” to do that, “and we stand ready to assist.”

Speaking at a press conference with the visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Obama expressed concern “about the outbreak of violence, that initially is centered on Jerusalem; but we always are concerned about the spread of violence elsewhere.”

He said the US condemns “in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people” and believes “that Israel has a right to maintain basic law and order and protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence on the streets.”

He urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and other officials on both sides “to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding.” They needed to “get all people in Israel and the West Bank to recognize that this kind of random violence is not going to result in anything other than more hardship or insecurity.”

He added: “I don’t think we can wait for all the issues that exist between Israelis and Palestinians to be settled in order for us to try and tamp down on violence right now.”

He said Secretary of State John Kerry and others had made “enormous” efforts to broker a two-state solution, but that effort had “stalled.” And it would be up to the parties themselves to try to restart it. “But in the meantime, everybody needs to focus on making sure innocent people aren’t being killed.”

Asked twice about Kerry’s initial linkage of the new terror wave and settlements, subsequently walked back, Obama said Kerry had not make that linkage. After calling to end the violence, stressing Israel’s right to protect its citizens from random violence, urging all parties to lower the rhetoric, and stressing the need to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem religious sites, Kerry, said the president, had noted that the atmosphere of “tension and suspicion” between the two sides “obviously creates the potential for more misunderstanding and triggers.”

But, Obama stressed, where settlements were concerned, “there’s not a direct causation there.” The focus for now, he said, had to be “on innocent people not being killed.”

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