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Kerry Offers No Clear Way To End Recent Surge Of Palestinian Attacks


In Israel, there is a fierce debate underway on how to respond to the recent surge of Palestinian attacks. This week, Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region and met separately with leaders of both sides. He came out with no clear plans to end the violence. NPR's Emily Harris joins us from Jerusalem now. Emily, good morning.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Emily, what is this internal Israeli debate?

HARRIS: Basically, Linda, it's whether to crack down or in some ways ease up on the Palestinians. In the Israeli media this morning, it's being described as a very stark military versus political assessment of the situation and what steps to take next.

WERTHEIMER: So who's on what side?

HARRIS: Well, yesterday, the Israeli military released a list of recommendations of ways to ease life for Palestinians. This is stuff they apparently suggested to political leaders actually before the current wave of violence got underway. These are things like more work permits, giving Palestinians security forces actually better weapons and also releasing some Palestinians from Israeli prisons. The military is not saying that it's pushing to do these things right now, but it's implying that they should have been done earlier. And Israel's defense minister added to that in a speech last night. He said that voices calling for a harsh show of force at this point are basically missing the idea, not getting at the root cause of the problem. But at the same time, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear to Secretary Kerry this week that no concessions of this type are going to be made until attacks by Palestinians end.

WERTHEIMER: So what was Secretary Kerry trying to do?

HARRIS: He said going in that what he wanted to hear was ideas from both sides on ways they could bring down the violence. Now, one idea that's been floating around was to give Palestinians control of a little more land in the West Bank. But Netanyahu reportedly made it very clear to Kerry that before that might happen, he would want international recognition of Israel's right to build more within what are called settlement blocs. But that is an idea the State Department gave a firm and flat public no to.

WERTHEIMER: What about ideas from the Palestinians?

HARRIS: Kerry's meeting with the Palestinians didn't come up with any concrete ideas on how to stop the violence either. Palestinian officials said that they gave Kerry a file documenting what they called Israeli incitement and violence. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has a big problem. He does not really have control or popularity among the Palestinians. And this, of course, is a problem as well for the U.S. and Israel, at least to the degree that they are looking to him to stop the violence.

WERTHEIMER: So these attacks presumably are continuing to affect daily life?

HARRIS: They are still affecting daily life. Most have shifted to the West Bank, but they still do happen in Israel. So both Israelis and Palestinians are thinking about where they go, when they go, how they behave. Palestinians are facing restrictions on movement and roadblocks in some areas. And of course, the number of people killed on both sides continues to go up.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Emily Harris, speaking to us from Jerusalem. Emily, thank you.

HARRIS: Thanks, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.