Israeli settlements not a 'speed bump' in peace talks, says Kerry

Israel's announcement of new settlement construction in disputed areas was “expected” and likely won't create a “speed bump” that could derail peace talks with the Palestinians, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Israeli government approved 1,200 new homes on Sunday and moved forward Monday with another 900 previously approved homes. A senior Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that the expansion runs counter to the pledges of the U.S.-backed peace process and could derail the talks before they resume in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“The announcements with respect to settlements were to some degree expected because we have known that there was going to be a continuation of some building in certain places, and I think the Palestinians understand that. I think one of the announcements — or maybe one of them was outside of that level of expectation, and that’s being discussed right now,” Kerry told reporters during his visit to Colombia. 

“I do not believe it will become ... a speed bump in that sense. We are working through these modalities every day as we go forward.”

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Kerry said he had talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday. He said he has made it clear to both Israelis and Palestinians that the Obama administration views the settlements as illegitimate.

A State Department spokeswoman on Monday said the administration had “serious concerns” about the settlement announcement. Separately, the Palestinian Authority has raised Israel's ire by referring to 104 prisoners Israel has promised to free as “freedom fighters” when many have been accused of killing Israelis.

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