Kerry: Legalizing settlement outposts not constructive

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bid by the Israeli government to legalize four West Bank settlement outposts is neither “appropriate” nor “constructive” but should not prevent the resumption of peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“Our position on settlements and outposts and on the legalization is that we are opposed to it,” Kerry said Friday in Tel Aviv, where he wrapped up his third visit to the region since assuming his job in February. “We believe that that is not appropriate, and, in fact, is not constructive in the context of our efforts to move forward.”

The State Department this week would not comment on reports that Kerry personally called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to complain after reports emerged last week that his government had indicated in court documents that it planned on legalizing the outposts, some of which are built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Kerry said he is optimistic that he will bring the sides back to talks, suspended since 2010 when the Palestinian side walked out because Netanyahu would not extend a 10-month settlement freeze.

The news of the legalized outposts should not hinder talks, Kerry said.

“If you negotiate security and get to a final settlement, you have resolved the issue of settlements themselves,” he said.

“That’s the way you resolve the issue, is by deciding what is in the Palestinian state and what are the rules there and what is Israel and what are the rules there,” he said. “And the sooner we get to that, the sooner the question of settlements is resolved.”

Separately, the American Jewish Committee on Friday announced that Kerry would be a featured speaker at its annual forum on June 2.

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