Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to hold talks to calm the recent surge of violence. Netanyahu said he was “perfectly open” to a meeting that might be “potentially useful”. He also defended a massive security deployment in Jerusalem following a wave of knife attacks by Palestinians.
Near-daily attacks have left seven Israelis dead and dozens wounded over the past fortnight. Several of the attackers were among at least 30 Palestinians who have been killed in recent violence.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been fuelled by clashes in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and across the Gaza border, as well as the wave of stabbings.
“Right now as we can speak, we can meet – I have no problem with that – and we shall stop immediately this wave of incitement and attacks against Israel,” Netanyahu told a news conference on Thursday.
However, he continued, “I am willing to meet him [President Abbas] but he isn’t willing to meet me”.
The Israeli leader said he was also willing to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah for talks to defuse the tension.
The Palestinians have previously said they would not return to talks unless Israel halted settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel has built more than 100 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it occupied the territories in the 1967 Middle East war. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. (BBC)