WASHINGTON (Dec. 16)
The State Department, while praising Israelis and Palestinians here for engaging in peace talks, berated some in Israel for trying to derail that dialogue through violence and other “provocative acts.”
The department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, expressed “serious concern” with violence in the West Bank on Sunday by Israelis retaliating against earlier acts by Palestinians.
“We think that Israel’s government has a role to play in bringing this under control,” said Boucher, citing press reports quoting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Housing Minister Ariel Sharon as saying the violence should “stop.”
“We certainly agree with that,” he said.
“We are also deeply concerned about the violent incidents in the occupied territories by individuals or groups who appear to be bent on destroying the prospects for peace,” Boucher said.
“We think that both Palestinians should refrain from acts of violence against Israelis and the Israeli settlers should refrain from acts of violence against Palestinians and from taking the law into their own hands,” he added.
Boucher also cited the occupation last week by Israeli settlers of Arab homes in the East Jerusalem enclave of Silwan.
Last week, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court issued a temporary injunction ordering Jewish settlers to vacate one of five Arab homes they took over there earlier in the week.
“The issue of legal title is still under consideration in the Israeli courts,” said Boucher. “The real issue to us is not legal title or legal issues surrounding ownership of houses.”
“The real issue is the exercise of control by the government over individuals who are obviously bent on destroying the prospects for peace,” Boucher said.
He called on Israel “to demonstrate its own commitment to peace by preventing unilateral acts and restoring harmony to the city of Jerusalem.”
Boucher had no response when asked to cite a time when Jerusalemites have lived in harmony.