Kerry Asks Israel to Limit Settlement Building to Aid Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Israel settlement construction should be “limited as much as possible,” while voicing confidence that disputes troubling Israeli-Palestinian peace talks could be resolved.

Kerry met today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, amid reports of growing differences and even a screaming match between the sides.

“There are always difficulties, always tensions,” Kerry said after a three-hour meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “I’m very confident of our ability to work through them.”

Kerry has six months left on the nine-month clock he set for progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that resumed in July. His arrival follows Israel’s announcement it will erect more homes on land captured in 1967 and an Abbas campaign to bring international pressure on Israel to stop building on territory the Palestinians claim for a state.

After meeting with Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Kerry said settlement construction should be “limited as much as possible to facilitate talks.”

A meeting yesterday between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators dissolved in a screaming match, in part because of construction plans, Israel’s daily Haaretz reported today.

Jewish State

The Palestinians also reject Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and give up claims on Israeli cities such as Beersheva and Haifa with large Arab populations.

“I’m concerned about progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises,” Netanyahu said.

Kerry said he plans a second round of meetings with both sides. In Bethlehem today, he announced the U.S. would commit an additional $75 million to Palestinian Authority infrastructure projects in the West Bank, bringing its total contribution to $100 million.

“The Americans should intervene now or the talks will reach a dead end,” said Abbas adviser Nimer Hamad.

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