(JTA) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry linked the recent surge in Palestinian violence on Israelis to the “increase in settlements.”
Speaking Tuesday night at Harvard University, Kerry said he will visit the Middle East soon to move Palestinians and Israelis from violence to peace.
“I will go there soon, at some point appropriately, and try to work to re-engage and see if we can’t move that away from this precipice,” Kerry said at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “We’re working on trying to calm things down.”
Seven Israelis have been killed and many more injured in attacks throughout Israel and the West Bank since Oct. 1, when a young Israeli couple was killed in front of their four children. At least 27 Palestinians, including nine alleged assailants, have been killed.
Kerry said that frustration over settlement building has led to the violence.
“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.”
Earlier on Tuesday in remarks in Boston with Australian government ministers, Kerry reiterated the Obama administration’s condemnation of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including two that day in Jerusalem that killed three Israelis. Two Palestinian attackers and a Palestinian demonstrator near Bethlehem also were killed on Tuesday.
“Naturally, we mourn the loss of any life, no matter who it is,” Kerry said. “But this violence and any incitement to violence has got to stop. The situation is simply too volatile, too dangerous. And it is not going to lead to the outcome that people want, which is to have a peaceful resolution of the differences. We continue to stress the importance of all persons of responsibility to condemn the violence on either side and to avoid provocative statements that can inflame the tensions even further.”
Kerry said he was in “close touch” with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a security message alerting U.S. citizens to the “continued potential for violence and unrest in and around Jerusalem and the West Bank.” The message calls on them to “exercise heightened security awareness in East and West Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank due to an increase in political violence and unrest that has resulted in multiple deaths and injuries since early October.”
The consulate recommended that private U.S. citizens take into consideration the temporary restrictions it has placed on its employees’ travel in the West Bank and Jerusalem.