Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the news that Secretary of State John Kerry will soon travel to the Middle East to try to address the terrible violence that is sweeping across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Today, Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly locked in a dynamic of bloody escalation, with unbearable costs for both sides. Regrettably, it appears that their respective leaderships are incapable of breaking out of this dynamic. In this context, we urge Secretary Kerry to use his visit to take concrete steps that can calm the situation:
- Secretary Kerry should convene Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to address the situation on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, as he did previously in 2014. In 2014, the outcome of that meeting was informal, private understandings that eroded over time; this time, the outcome must include a public reassertion by all three leaders of their agreement that the status quo at the site – both in letter and spirit – is not under threat and will not be altered. A further outcome should be the reestablishment of formal, effective Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian channels of communication to head-off further conflicts on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
- Secretary Kerry should bring together Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the current crisis. Coming out of that meeting, there should be a public statement asserting their mutual agreement that Israelis and Palestinians are not enemies, that they condemn the dehumanization of the other side, and that they reject efforts to transform the conflict between the peoples into a religious war.
- Secretary Kerry should publicly and privately call on President Abbas to refrain from rhetoric that could further inflame the situation on the Palestinian side and to unequivocally urge an end to individual acts of violence against Israelis, for the sake of the Palestinians’ future. Secretary Kerry should also urge Abbas to rein in inflammatory and incendiary voices from within the Palestinian Authority, including his official media outlets. Finally, Secretary Kerry should strongly urge Abbas to maintain security cooperation with Israel.
- Secretary Kerry should publicly and privately call on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to refrain from public rhetoric that casts the entire Palestinian people as the enemy, frames the current crisis in religious terms, or could further inflame the situation on the Israeli side, leading to additional vigilante actions. Secretary Kerry should also urge Netanyahu to rein in inflammatory and incendiary voices from within his own government and public officials across the country. Finally, Secretary Kerry should urge Netanyahu to calibrate his security responses to the current crisis to avoid collective punishment and to fully respect Israel’s rule of law in dealing with Palestinian attackers and suspects.
We believe that these steps, in concert with similar actions by other members of the international community, could help break the current escalatory dynamic in the short term. However, the current violence is not the source of the problem, it is the symptom – and the answer to this violence in the longer term is not greater occupation, subjugation and oppression, all of which will only spawn more of what we are seeing today. The answer is addressing the root cause of the violence, which means re-establishing a political horizon for the end of occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel in peace and with security, in the near term. Giving in to despair or anger, and giving up on this goal, would be a victory for the zealots on both sides, and a huge loss for both Palestinians and Israelis. This is not a time to despair, but rather a time to work harder for Israeli-Palestinian peace.