WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States strongly condemns settler violence and does not accept the legitimacy of West Bank settlement expansion, a top Obama administration official told an American Palestinian group.
Philip Gordon, the National Security Council coordinator for Middle East policy, in an address Tuesday evening to the annual gala dinner of the American Task Force on Palestine emphasized perceived Israeli transgressions in describing the difficulties afflicting renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement expansion,” Gordon said, an apparent reference to new housing starts announced by Israel in recent weeks. Citing attacks by settlers on Palestinian olive groves, he said, “We also strongly condemn settler violence.”
Much of Gordon’s speech was focused on economic development.
Gordon praised both sides for renewing talks and for confidence-building measures, noting that Israel has released prisoners convicted of terrorist attacks and that the Palestinians have suspended bids to achieve statehood recognition.
However, in citing elements that do not create a “conducive atmosphere” for the talks, he did not mention Israeli complaints about the Palestinians, including a spate of recent attacks and the Israeli sense that Palestinians are not doing enough to stem incitement.
He praised Israel for removing some restrictions inhibiting Palestinian movement in the West Bank, but called on it to do more.
The ATFP is a leading advocate for a two-state solution and works closely with an array of Jewish and pro-Israel groups, many of which were represented at the gala dinner.