United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel for building in the settlements and condemned “provocations” at holy sites in Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded barbs over Israel's role in stalled peace talks with the Palestinians during a visit by the former to the area.
While meeting on Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah in the West Bank, Ban criticized Israel for building in the settlements and condemned “provocations” at holy sites in Jerusalem.
The meeting came a day after the Gaza rebuilding conference in Cairo, where Ban announced that he also would visit Gaza on Tuesday “to listen directly to the people of Gaza, survey the situation for myself,” in a statement issued by the United Nations.
“While rebuilding is important, we must tackle the root causes of instability. We must give renewed attention to the West Bank,” Ban said Monday in Ramallah. “I once again strongly condemn the continued settlement activity by Israel,” he said.
He called on Israel and the Palestinians to “show courage” and continue engaging in the peace process.
“I am also deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop,” Ban said. Earlier in the day Israeli Police quelled Arab rioters at the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount and allowed Jewish visitors on the site for the first time in several days.
Ban later met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, who launched a few jarring responses to Ban's verbal accusations.
"The root cause of the violence that burst from Gaza is not Israel’s occupation in Gaza, for a simple reason: Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza," asserted Netanyahu during a joint news conference before the meeting between the two and later tweeted on the prime minister's Twitter account. "The cause of this summer's outburst of violence was Hamas' rocketing of Israeli cities, often exploiting U.N. neutrality and using U.N. facilities."
Netanyahu didn't stop there.
"I believe that unilateral steps by the Palestinians at the United Nations will not advance peace, I think they’ll do the very opposite," he continued. "They’ll bring about a further deterioration in the situation — something none of us want."