The United States has strongly rejected Israel’s request that Washington should recognize its illegal settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories, calling the settlements an obstacle to a two-state solution.
The new dispute over Israeli settlements emerged between Washington and Tel Aviv on Tuesday, as US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel and the West Bank for the first time in more than a year.
During Kerry’s visit to Jerusalem al-Quds, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly demanded international recognition of major Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank in exchange for steps to ease tensions with the Palestinians.
However, the US State Department quickly rejected any suggestion that Washington would change its longstanding opposition to settlements or recognize them as legitimate.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner categorically rejected that possibility. “It’s a big no,” he told reporters.
“We’re not changing the decades-old US policy regarding settlements,” he said, noting that every US administration since 1967 has opposed them because they are an obstacle to a two-state solution.
“The US government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them, and by extension, does not pursue policies that would legitimize them,” Toner said.
Kerry’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
There were no signs that Kerry made any progress in easing those tensions during his meetings with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The fresh wave of unrest was triggered in September by Israel’s imposition of restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds.
More than 90 Palestinians have been killed at the hands of Israelis since the beginning of October.
Israel says the violence is the result of incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders.
The Palestinians say the outburst of tensions is the result of nearly 70 years of Israeli occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence and frustration over repeated failures in peace efforts.