Kerry links ‘increase in violence’ to Israel’s settlement activity

Top US diplomat says Palestinian ‘frustration’ fueled by increase in West Bank construction, indicates he will visit region to push for renewal of talks

In this Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a news conference at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)
In this Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, US Secretary of State John Kerry gives a news conference at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP/Dieu Nalio Chery)

BOSTON — Expansion of building in settlements has increased Palestinian frustration, leading to the current upswing in violence, Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience at Harvard University Tuesday evening. Speaking about America’s ability to impact outcomes throughout the world, Kerry warned that “unless we get going, the two-state solution will be conceivably stolen from everybody.”

“There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” Kerry said during a question-and-answer session, “and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration that’s growing.” Kerry noted that there was also “a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any end.”

“I look at that and I say if that did explode — and I pray and hope it won’t — and I think there’re options to prevent that, then we would inevitably be at some point engaged in working though those kinds of difficulties,” Kerry continued. “So better to find the ways to deal with it before that happens than later and I think what always perplexes me – we’ve been through Oslo, Wye Plantation, Madrid, countless negotiations. Most people I talk to have a pretty damn good sense of what has to be done.”

“It’s a question of making the judgments and having the courage to go there,” Kerry insisted, adding that “we have 16 months left in this administration and we’re going to stay engaged and try to work through these issues because there are options and there is a better other side to the current conflict we’re witnessing.”

The top US diplomat stressed that the Obama administration would keep pushing for an agreement in its remaining 16 months in office. US-backed talks collapsed spectacularly in April 2014 after a nine-month effort and negotiations have been in a deep freeze ever since.

Kerry said he will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories “soon” to push for a renewal of talks, saying that he will “see if we can’t move away from this precipice.”

Earlier in the day, Kerry condemned terror attacks against Israeli civilians and said that violence between Israelis and Palestinians “has got to stop.”

At a news conference following talks with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne, Kerry called the situation in Israel too volatile and stressed what he called the importance of all people to avoid what he called provocative statements that can inflame tensions further.

“This violence and any incitement to violence has got to stop,” he said.

Kerry said he spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend to stress his concerns.

Netanyahu said Tuesday he would take a series of “aggressive steps” to halt a wave of violence in Israeli cities after two attacks in Jerusalem left three Israelis dead. Three Palestinians, including two attackers, were also killed.

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