The former Nobel Peace Prize winner said there was a blind spot in global leadership and an inability of world leaders, particularly Western leaders, to step in and halt hatred.
“It is not a Muslim or Jewish crisis. It is a human rights crisis with roots to what amounts to an apartheid system of land ownership and control. It is a crisis that fuels other crises…” he told media and other officials at the Cape Town city hall.
“Yes, we condemn those who fan the flames, who launch the missiles against Israel, but missiles do not justify Israel’s excessive response.”
Since Israel’s 10-day campaign to halt Hamas rocket fire on its cities, more than 260 Palestinians had been killed and over 2,000 wounded, Associated Press reported, quoting Palestinian health officials.
In Israel, one civilian had died and several were wounded, it reported.
Tutu was speaking at a World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates briefing in which “Peace. Living it” was announced as the theme.
He and former president FW de Klerk would host the summit taking place in the city in October.
The summit would also commemorate the legacy of late statesman Nelson Mandela, whose birthday citizens were honouring around the country on Friday.
“As an old man, my appeal to my fellow laureates and peacemakers is to step into the leadership void, to make your voices heard from all corners of the globe, to advocate or pressure your government and institutions to cajole, to persuade,” Tutu said.
“The people of Israel and Palestine can live in peace together. They are not born hating each other.”
He said helping to overcome “the greatest peace challenge of our times” would be a fitting tribute to Mandela.
De Klerk said he had recently been to Israel for a television interview, in which he stated that the window of opportunity for a two-nation state solution was rapidly closing.
He believed it was a viable solution but not the only one.
“I think for the Israelis and Palestinians, the lesson to be learnt from South Africa is that there is no dispute which cannot be resolved by meaningful negotiation if there is the will on both sides to negotiate bona fide,” he said.
Both sides had to make meaningful compromises and create an atmosphere for meaningful negotiations.
“It is not for me to say in the case of the Palestinians and Israelis which initiatives to take. But it is clear… borders is an issue which needs to be addressed.”
He said the recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a state was also something which needed to be addressed.
Nobel Peace Prize laureates, delegates and organisations such as the European Union and United Nations are to gather in Cape Town from October 13 to 15.
The summit’s permanent secretariat president, Ekaterina Zagladina, announced that the title of “Peace City of 2014” was being bestowed on Cape Town.