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Amid mounting tensions, Israeli and Palestinian officials clash over fundamental issues

October 31st, 2014
11:51 AM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

As tensions between the two countries reached a new level on Thursday, Israel’s Economy Minister and the Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. offered opposing viewpoints on how the two sides can find common ground.

Clashes broke out following Israel’s decision to close access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or the al-Aqsa Mosque, as Muslims call it. The move came after the shooting of far-right Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who had advocated for more Jewish access to the holy site.

“What we need is for the Palestinian leadership to stop incitement, because they have been calling for these sorts of actions and indeed the words do kill,” Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Economy Minister, told CNN’s Michael Holmes, in for Christiane Amanpour.

The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Ryiad Mansour reacted to the accusations by saying that it is Israel that is provoking Palestine.

“There are daily incidents in which Israel occupying authority and their extreme settlers killing Palestinian, children, young people, arresting Palestinians, uprooting our trees, making our life miserable, closing down the third holiest shrine for Muslims, not to allow anyone to go there, that is inflaming the situation,” Mansour said.

Bennett told Holmes that getting back to some sort of dialogue would have to involve investing “in joint economy between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

“What we need to do is talk about paving roads, opening up new businesses, opening up commercial centers, factories and that's my focus as Minister of Economy for Israel,” he said.

But Mansour disagreed. “The issue is not improving, building a road here or there. The issue is ending occupation of our land,” he said.

“If he [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is truly in favor of a two-state solution, then he begins educating his people that they have to evacuate from the occupied territory, not to instruct his ambassador in the Security Council to say that we are not occupiers, this is our land,” Mansour added.

Bennett explained that “Temple Mount is the most holy place for Jews in the entire world and it's the third holiest location for Muslims, so we have to find a way where both religions can fully exercise their freedom to pray. That's what we need to be striving for and that's what I hope ultimately will happen.”

Mansour offered a different viewpoint again, alluding to the principle of status quo.

“Nobody is denying anyone, al-Aqsa Mosque is always open for visitors. And agreements between Israel and us and the Jordanian authorities, that it is open for everyone but it is not open except for the Muslims to pray there,” he said.

“You do not see Muslims praying in churches. You do not see Christians praying in Muslims' mosques. They visit these places, but each would pray in their own holy site,” Mansour added.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have been running higher than usual since the 50-day conflict in Gaza this summer. Among the sticking points are Israel’s plans to expand and build more settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to make their future capital.

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