WASHINGTON -- A spokesman for US Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to clarify an earlier comment made by the top diplomat on Wednesday, which suggested a direct link between Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank and a recent spree of violence in Israel.
At an event at Harvard University on Tuesday evening, Kerry spoke of the unraveling situation in and around Jerusalem, where a tempo of violence has relentlessly increased over the last two weeks.
"What's happening is that, unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody," Kerry said. "And there's been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there's a frustration that is growing."
According to the State Department, the comment was not intended to justify the wave of violence— which it characterizes as terrorism
— gripping the country.
How can Israel put an end to this wave of terror?
"The secretary wasn't saying, well now you have the settlement activity as the cause for the effect we're seeing," State Department spokesman John Kirby told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday. "Is it a source of frustration for Palestinians? You bet it is, and the secretary observed that. But this isn't about affixing blame on either side here for the violence. What we want to see is the violence cease."
He said that the US position against Israel's settlement construction is "crystal clear" and remains unchanged.
"We're not going to dictate immediate security requirements onto Israel. The Israeli government has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens," Kirby added. "We've certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force. Obviously we don't like to see that."
While Kirby has called on both Israel and the Palestinians to reduce tensions by ending "incitement," he declined to list examples of such incitement on either side. He also declined to attribute blame for the current cycle of terrorism, which has seen 28 separate attacks in 14 days, claiming 7 Israeli lives and wounding 70 others. Palestinian organizations also report at least 25 Palestinian deaths.
The State Department also concluded on Wednesday that an attack by an Israeli Jew against Israeli Arabs constituted terrorism. "Certainly, individuals on both sides of this divide have proven capable of and, in our view, are guilty of acts of terror," Kirby said.
Kerry plans on visiting the region in the near future to discuss the crisis, though he may not visit Israel or the Palestinian territories. His aides have left open a trip to Jordan, instead, where he would meet with Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
Kerry hopes that a calming of the situation may provide an opening for the resumption of negotiations toward a two-state solution.
But "its difficult to have that kind of discussion," Kirby said, "when you have so much violence going on."