JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a West Bank settlement days before a scheduled visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to jump-start the peace process.
Netanyahu on Monday attended a dedication ceremony for an elementary school in the Barkan settlement named for his father, Ben Tzion Netanyahu, who died last year at 102.
It was Netanyahu’s first visit to a West Bank settlement since his election in January. Barkan is located in one of the settlement blocs that Israel has said will remain part of the country under any peace agreement.
Netanyahu criticized the perpetrators of “price tag” attacks, saying, “We cannot accept this lawlessness in our midst. We are acting against it with a strong hand and we will continue to do so.”
Netanyahu also spoke about Israel’s right to defend itself.
“I believe that the Jews must be capable of defending themselves by themselves and to take determined action against any enemy that tries to attack us,” he said.
Netanyahu said his father believed that a fundamental part of establishing the State of Israel as a renewed Jewish state was the ability of the Jews to defend themselves on their own.
“This has guided me in every arena against every threat,” he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in an interview with The New York Times accused Netanyahu of doing something “to undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state.”
“It’s more than provocative, it’s devastating,” Erekat said.
Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel at the end of the week.