The US has backtracked on Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments blaming Israeli settlement construction to the current outbreak of Palestinian terror and violence across Israel, what one Israeli official called an “idiotic” move by the secretary.
Speaking at a Harvard University event on Tuesday, Kerry told the audience that “there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration that’s growing.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that Kerry was not “trying to affix…blame for the recent violence” but reiterated his message that Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria were not helpful to the peace process.
Kirby explained that the secretary was just outlining “the challenges that are posed on both sides by this absence of progress towards a two-state solution,” adding that Kerry “highlighted our concern that current trends on the ground, including this violence, as well as ongoing settlement activity, are imperiling the viability of eventually getting to a two-state solution.”
During his address, Kerry also emphasized the Obama administration’s determination to work towards a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for the remainder of the president’s 16 month term.
“The secretary has made clear his concerns over what’s going on there and his desire to travel to the region to engage and discuss and to try to find ways to reduce the tensions, restore the calm and then start to work, collaboratively hopefully, towards a two-state solution,” Kirby stated.
Over the last two weeks, Israel has been victim to an unprecedented wave of terror, with some terror groups, such as Hamas, warning of a Third Intifada.
The Palestinians have issued formal complaints to the US regarding Israeli action against the violence, which Kirby government officials have “seen some reports of security activity that could indicate the potential excessive use of force.”
According to Kirby, the US is “always concerned about credible reports of excessive use of force against civilians, and we routinely raise our concerns about that.”
The secretary “wants both sides to take the affirmative actions, both in rhetoric and in action, to de-escalate the tensions, to restore calm, and to try to move forward toward a two-state solution.”
In response to Kerry’s comments, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio, “I don’t know whether to call them naive, in the US State Department and in the American government. Instead of putting out idiotic declarations that pretend to address two equally guilty sides, they [should] focus pressure on the murderous, inciting Palestinian Authority; because of its incitement, young people go out and commit murderous acts.”