BOSTON, United States — US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Wednesday that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is at a “pivotal point” and could worsen beyond repair unless both sides make rapid compromises.
“As you know, we’re very concerned about the violence and the potential for the situation to spin out of control,” Kerry told reporters as he arrived home in Boston after visiting leaders from both sides in Jerusalem.
“Over these past months we have been encouraging the parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.”
“I think we may be reaching a pivotal point now where both sides have important decisions to make for the future and we obviously hope that they make choices that will advance the prospects for lasting peace.”
Kerry met with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Jerusalem and Ramallah to urge both to take steps to calm tensions after a spate of unrest.
But he left without a concrete breakthrough and said he would continue to press both leaders on the issue in coming weeks.
During his meeting with Netanyahu, the Israeli leader said Israel would only agree to take steps to improve the security and economic situation for Palestinians in the West Bank when calm is fully restored, according to a senior Israeli official.
Netanyahu also said there would be no settlement freeze, and Israel would only okay building plans for the Palestinians if the US recognizes Israel’s construction in the settlement blocs, according to the official.
Kerry reportedly rejected an Israeli proposal to halt building in outlying settlements in exchange for recognition of construction in major blocs Israel hopes to hold onto in a final status deal.
Before meeting with Netanyahu, Kerry expressed support for Israel’s actions to defend itself against a wave of Palestinian terror, saying his arrival in the region came at a “very troubled” time.
“Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence; with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars. It is very clear to us that the terrorism, these acts of terrorism, which have been taking place deserve the condemnation that they are receiving. And today I express complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation,” Kerry stated. “Israel has every right in the world to defend itself. It has an obligation to defend itself. And it will and it is.”
During a brief meeting in Ramallah later in the day, Kerry told Abbas he supported Palestinian statehood efforts.
“We are committed to that two states with two peoples living side by side,” he said. “The United States will continue to work as hard as possible to achieve that end.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report