Violence Flares as Kerry Visits Israel 11/24 06:40
JERUSALEM (AP) -- A Palestinian motorist rammed his vehicle into a group of
Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint on Tuesday, wounding three, Israel's
military said, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited for the first time
in over a year, hoping to calm two months of deadly violence.
Kerry touched down amid a new rash of deadly attacks that have dampened any
lingering hopes of renewed peace negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians during the Obama administration's final year. Ahead of his trip,
Kerry conceded he was coming without the ambitious agenda of past visits and
was primarily focused on stemming the violence.
"There can be no peace when we have an onslaught of terror, not here, not
anywhere else," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he welcomed
the chief American diplomat.
With Netanyahu nodding, Kerry said Israel had a right and obligation to
defend itself and that "no people anywhere should live with daily violence,
with attacks in the streets with knives, with scissors, with cars." At the same
time, he said he would speak with the Israeli leader about how "to push back
against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence, and to find a way
forward to restore calm and begin to provide opportunities."
Kerry will travel to the West Bank for discussions with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas later on Tuesday.
The current spate of violence erupted in mid-September over tensions
surrounding a sensitive Jerusalem holy site and quickly spread across Israel
and into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nineteen Israelis have been killed,
mostly in stabbings. Israeli fire has killed 89 Palestinians. Israel says 57 of
these were attackers, while the rest died in clashes with security forces.
The past week has been the deadliest thus far.
A Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli soldier at a West Bank gas station
Monday before being killed along with two other Palestinian attackers. Five
people were killed in stabbing and shooting attacks on Nov. 19, including Ezra
Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Kerry's home state of Massachusetts.
Amid so much violence, Kerry said Monday he would be traveling to Israel and
the Palestinian territories without any "highfalutin, grandiose, hidden
agenda." Instead, he was seeking steps "that could calm things down a little
bit so people aren't living in absolute, daily terror."
But the attacks renewed as quickly as Kerry landed.
At the West Bank checkpoint Tuesday, the Israeli military said a Palestinian
motorist rammed a group of soldiers, lightly wounding three of them. It said
the attacker was shot and wounded at the scene.
Kerry's broader concerns haven't changed, however, and he is likely to ask
both sides to avoid provocative actions. For the Israelis, that means holding
off on the construction of new settlements in lands the Palestinians seek for
their future state. For the Palestinians, it means ending incitement to
Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories only once since the
collapse in April 2014 of a nine-month peace process he led. He traveled back
three months later during a war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.
In recent months, Kerry and other U.S. officials have suggested a renewed
peace push might be possible. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton made
unsuccessful attempts at brokering a two-state solution during their final
months in office. But the rising death toll seems, for now, to have created an
environment that makes a similar commitment by President Barack Obama unlikely.
Kerry told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East that the U.S. was
prepared to re-engage in a serious peace effort, and said "we have ideas for
how things could proceed."
"But this street violence doesn't provide any leader with a framework within
which they can look their people in the eye and say, 'There's a reason to be
sitting down and talking about this or that,' " he added. "People aren't in the
mood for concessions. They're in the mood for being tough."
Showing no signs of softening, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel would fight
"every hour" against those committing and inciting violence, linking his
government's efforts to the international campaign against the Islamic State
group and other extremist forces.
"It's not only our battle; it's everyone's battle," he said. "It's a battle
of civilization against barbarism."
Abbas, for his part, has provided no indication that he wants to restart
direct peace talks with the Israelis anytime soon.
Israel says the recent violence stems from Palestinian incitement and
incendiary videos on social media. The Palestinians say it is rooted in
frustration over almost five decades of Israeli occupation and little hope for
obtaining independence. Palestinians also accuse Israel of using excessive
force, saying some attackers can be stopped without being killed.