President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the recent outbreak of violence in Israel and urged Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to tamp down their rhetoric.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people,” Obama said in a news conference.
For two weeks, tensions about access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews, have led to violence that has seen at least 37 Palestinians and seven Israelis killed.
Netanyahu, Abbas and other people in positions of power need to “try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding,” Obama said.
“I don’t think we can wait for all of the issues that exist between Israelis and Palestinians to be settled in order for us to try to tamp down the violence right now,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who traveled to Europe on Friday, is expected to meet Netanyahu next week.
In another sign of Washington’s concern about the need to defuse the situation and end the violence, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to visit Israel next week.
Obama reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but noted past efforts by his administration to broker peace talks have foundered.
“I think it’s going to be up to the parties, and we stand ready to assist to see if they can restart a more constructive relationship,” he said.