Violence and settlement activity are undermining the viability of a two-state political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US state department said on Wednesday as it discussed secretary of state John Kerry’s plan to visit the region.
Speaking a day after Kerry announced his intent to visit the region soon to try to help reduce tensions, state department spokesperson John Kirby said the secretary was not assigning blame when he said a “massive increase in settlements” over the past year had been followed by the current outbreak of violence.
Kirby said Kerry had been consistent in “not trying to affix ... blame for the recent violence” but had discussed “the challenges that are posed on both sides by this absence of progress towards a two-state solution.”
“He wants both sides to take the affirmative actions, both in rhetoric and in action, to deescalate the tensions, to restore calm, and to try to move forward toward a two-state solution,” Kirby told a daily briefing.
Seven Israelis and 32 Palestinians, including assailants, children and protesters in violent anti-Israeli demonstrations, have been killed in two weeks of bloodshed.
The White House said separately that Kerry’s plans to travel to the region underscored the United States’ concern with escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Attempts by Kerry in 2013 to broker a peace accord collapsed last year, and although he has continued to talk to both sides, he has not tried to resume negotiations on a two-state solution.
He spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the weekend.
“The secretary has made clear his concerns ... 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 said.
He indicated Kerry’s plan to travel to the region did not mean he would go to Israel or the Palestinian territories.
Kerry had been “unequivocal” in condemning Palestinian attacks on Israelis, Kirby added, but he also said the department had reviewed an Oct. 9 stabbing of four Arab men in the Israeli town of Dimona and considered it an “act of terrorism” as well.
Kerry has “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,” Kirby said.