State Department walks back Kerry’s settlement-violence linkage

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S. State Department walked back John Kerry’s apparent linkage between settlement building and the current wave of violence by Palestinians against Israelis.

In a news briefing Wednesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby clarified the remarks by the secretary of state the previous evening in a speech at Harvard University.

“I think the Secretary was very consistent yesterday and has been over time in not trying to affix blame for the recent violence too particularly, and he was unequivocal yesterday, as you saw, in condemning the terrorist attacks against Israelis,” Kirby said. “What he has talked about is the challenges that are posed on both sides by this absence of progress towards a two-state solution. So – and he’s also 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 added that Kerry “understands there’s disenfranchisement, there’s disgruntlement, there is – there’s frustration on both sides that have led to this.”

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At Harvard, Kerry had said “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.”

Kirby said that Kerry “has every intention of traveling to the region soon,” but could not provide more details on when the trip would take place. He also said the secretary desires to “continue to pursue a two-state solution” but would not try to mediate such talks.

In answer to a reporter’s question, Kirby said that the status quo on the Temple Mount “has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence.”

Several hours after the news briefing, Kirby walked back that statement, tweeting: “Clarification from today’s briefing: I did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif has been broken,” and ” We welcome both Israel’s & Jordan’s commitment to continued maintenance of status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif.”

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