Senior Israeli, Palestinian clergy denounce violence

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2016 2:25 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli president held a meeting on Thursday with senior Israeli and Palestinian clergy who came together to denounce religiously-inspired violence, a year after the current wave of violence erupted.

An Israeli chief rabbi, some West Bank settler rabbis, the Palestinian president's Islamic affairs advisor and the head of the Muslim religious court in the West Bank were among those who attended the meeting, according to a statement from President Reuven Rivlin's office.

"We believe the deliberate killing of or attempt to kill innocents is terrorism, whether it is committed by Muslims, Jews or others," the clergy said in a joint statement.

David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which initiated the gathering, said it was an effort to get the clergy to be part of the solution to Israeli-Palestinian strife.

"Religious leaders in this part of the world may not have the power of political leaders, but they have influence," Makovsky said.

The current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence began just over a year ago, and in that time, 36 Israelis and two visiting Americans have been killed in Palestinian attacks. During the same time, about 219 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. Israel says most of those killed were attackers, while the Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force.

Israel has blamed the violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders, compounded on social media sites. The Palestinians say it is rooted in some 50 years of military occupation and fading hopes for independence.

Also Thursday, an Israeli defense body said it was increasing efforts to crack down on attempts to smuggle items to the Gaza Strip that Israel prohibits on security grounds. COGAT said it banned used auto parts for four-by-four vehicles from entering the Palestinian territory after several attempts to send them to Gaza for the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas.

COGAT said it also fined a telecommunications company for trying to smuggle cables and optical fibers into Gaza. The company, which was not named, is suspected of trying to get the equipment to Gaza's militant groups, the defense body said.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas seized power. Israel bans the entry of equipment to Gaza that could be used for military use.