Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly made an angry phone call to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in protest of government plans to legalize four West Bank outposts that had previously been set for demolition.
Kerry made the unusual move last Thursday to ask Oren for an explanation as to why the government is taking a step that he felt is likely to damage efforts to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Haaretz reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous Israeli source.
Kerry urged that the government reconsider its decision or at least delay it to a later date.
Last week the government told the High Court that it was looking into legalizing Givat Assaf, Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh and Maale Rehavam, all of which have in the past been ruled to be unauthorized outposts. The state said it would demolish two other outposts.
The notification came in response to a petition from Peace Now that demanded the outposts be destroyed in keeping with an earlier ruling that found the communities were built on privately owned Palestinian land.
In the state’s answer it said that while Givat Assaf had originally been deemed problematic, the land on which it sat had since been purchased. The other three outposts, the state said, were located on state land and not private Palestinian territory.
Peace Now’s petition demanded the demolition of a total of six outposts, including Ramat Gilad and Mitzpe Yitzhar. The state accepted the claim that one of the buildings in Mitzpe Yitzhar was built on private Palestinian land, and said it would evacuate and demolish it.
According to the report, the State Department said it had raised the issue at the highest Israeli diplomatic levels in Washington, although the embassy declined to comment on the matter.
Kerry is due to arrive in Israel later this week for another round of meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to try and kick-start long-dormant talks between the two sides.
Ahead of Kerry’s visit, Israel’s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians said the current stalemate is harmful for Israel.
Tzipi Livni told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that resuming negotiations was “first and foremost an Israeli interest.”
Direct negotiations have been largely frozen since the two sides were reportedly close to a deal in late 2008. Netanyahu insists talks resume without preconditions while the Palestinians demand a complete freeze in West Bank settlement construction beforehand.
Livni said the stalemate delivers a blow both to Israel’s legitimacy and its freedom to act militarily if needed. She also warned that the Palestinian narrative of the conflict is gaining traction internationally.