WASHINGTON -- Speaking during a press availability with the foreign
minister of Brazil, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he and
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had known for some time that new
Israeli settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank would be announced.
Minister Netanyahu was completely upfront with me and with President
Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would
take place in places that will not affect the peace map, that will not
have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement," Kerry said.
means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many
people make a presumption – obviously not some Palestinians or others –
will be part of Israel in the future," Kerry added. "He has
specifically agreed not to disturb what might be the potential for peace
Israel in recent days has announced tenders for
or advanced the planning process on about 3,100 housing units in the
West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas Palestinians claim for their own
Kerry made clear that settlements at any time,
and not just during the peace process, were considered illegitimate by
the United States.
"There are realities within life in Israel
that also have to be taken into account here going forward," Kerry said.
"President Abbas understood that coming into these talks."
Kerry and Abbas had a phone call scheduled for this afternoon.
The chief negotiator for the Palestinians Saeb Erekat voiced surprise when the Israeli settlements were announced.
the Israeli government believes that every week they're going to cross a
red line by settlement activity ... what they're advertising is the
unsustainability of the negotiations," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb
Erekat said on Sunday.
Kerry has set a nine-month deadline for
the peace talks, which he hopes will spur the two parties to negotiate
in earnest and with haste.
"Our hope is that we get to the real
issues on which we ought to be focusing, which are the final status
settlement – the final status issues," Kerry added. "I’m very hopeful we
will get there very, very soon."
“It demonstrated a willingness by Prime Minister Netanyahu to make tough decisions when he determines they are in the best interests of the Israeli people," a US official told The Jerusalem Post
. "The release of prisoners by the Israeli government is a very difficult but necessary step to give peace negotiations a chance.”
Netanyahu has agreed to the
staggered release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, many convicted of
murder. The first 26 are due to go free early on Wednesday, and
political analysts say the recent splurge of settlement moves was a bid
by Netanyahu to placate his legion of supporters who reject the
so-called two-state solution.Reuters contributed to this report.