US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed after meetings with Palestinian Arab representatives in Bethlehem today (Wednesday) that the US stance on Jewish life in Judea and Samaria is condemnation, AFP reports.
"We consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate," Kerry said, after Mahmoud Abbas reportedly walked out of Tuesday's talks over Israel's statements supporting a new initiative to build more than 3,500 new Jewish homes in the region.
Regarding the fact that Israel has kept up its side of a deal which exchanged the buildings for the controversial release of 26 Arab terrorists back into civilian areas, Kerry claims that "at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree, as a matter of going back to the talks, that they could somehow condone or accept" Jewish building efforts in Judea and Samaria.
Kerry did throw Israel a bone by responding that the US was "aware" of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plan for renewed construction efforts.
Kerry's remarks follow a tumultuous week between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, during which the released terrorists received a hero's welcome and threats of a third intifada were launched. Such a striking statement is unlikely to encourage an already skeptical Israeli public to support ongoing US-brokered talks.
Many Israelis have long suspected the Obama administration of sympathizing with the PA position, and concerns were raised at the very start of the latest round of talks over the controversial appointment of Martin Indyk as mediator in the talks. A number of Israeli groups have claimed his work with the far-left New Israel Fund rules Indyk out as an "honest broker" between the sides.
The confirmation also follows reports that the US President made derogatory remarks toward Israel, and toward Binyamin Netanyahu in particular, during discussions about the conflict in 2012.
The US may possibly have vested interests in the talks' success, as Obama has allegedly offered Israel support in efforts to stop a nuclear Iran in the event of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister's office has not yet released a statement responding to the US condemnation, nor how it will affect future talks.