Koenders: violence in Israel and Palestinian Territories must stop

Foreign minister Bert Koenders is concerned about the upsurge of violence in recent weeks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. ‘Innocent civilians are being targeted in random attacks and people are afraid to leave their homes. This is unacceptable,’ Mr Koenders said.

One of the victims was a 69-year-old Dutch woman who has lived in Jerusalem for some time. She was injured on Tuesday in a stabbing on a Jerusalem bus. ‘A staff member of the Dutch embassy visited her in hospital,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘It’s reassuring that the woman was awake and able to talk. She was offered consular assistance, and we’ll obviously provide it if she needs it. I wish her a full and speedy recovery.’

‘An attack like this,’ the minister noted, ‘brings the violence uncomfortably close to home.’ Mr Koenders strongly condemned the attacks on Israeli civilians. At the same time he urged that any response to the violence be proportionate, so as to prevent further escalation: in his view, disproportionate measures will only cause tensions to rise further. Both parties need to do their part to avoid falling into a spiral of aggression. ‘As we’ve learned in the past few decades, violence solves nothing. Both Israeli and Palestinian children must be able to walk the streets in safety.’

As the minister sees it, it is now up to the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to do all they can to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Provocations and hostile rhetoric are counterproductive, the minister noted. ‘I hope both parties can stay calm and prevent further escalation before things get even further out of hand and more people lose their lives.’

The foreign minister underscored that the current crisis illustrates the necessity of a lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ‘Without the prospect of a political solution, people lose hope, and extremists on both sides have a free hand,’ he said. ‘The Netherlands will continue to work actively, both bilaterally and through the EU, towards a two-state solution. I am talking with my European counterparts about ways to encourage de-escalation.’

Ministry responsible