Revert green light for new West Bank settlement, Kerry tells Netanyahu
US secretary of state calls Israel's prime minister amid mounting international and internal criticism of land appropriation
John Kerry has called the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, amid a US effort to persuade Israel to reverse the go-ahead for the largest appropriation of land on the occupied West Bank since the 1980s.
secretary of state's call followed the disclosure that the US had
officially requested Israel to reverse the decision, amid mounting
criticism of the move both internationally and within Netanyahu's own
Kerry is preparing to meet Palestinian negotiators
seeking a firm deadline for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied
territories to the pre-1967 borders. Failing that, Palestinian officials
have warned they will seek a UN resolution setting a three-year
deadline for the end of the occupation.
The talks will be Kerry's
first face-to-face discussions with Palestinian negotiators since
Washington found itself sidelined from ceasefire talks in July when
Kerry – the top US diplomat – failed to broker a truce in the war
between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
announcement on Sunday that the land in the Gush Etzion settlement
block near Bethlehem would be expropriated – the first step towards
building a significant new settlement there – has seen strong protests
from the UK and European governments including France and Spain, and
from Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, who was just appointed
the EU's next foreign minister.
The move has been widely
interpreted by Israeli analysts as a political gesture designed to shore
up support for Netanyahu on the right wing, which has criticised him
for his handling of the war in Gaza.
For his part, the Palestinian
president, Mahmoud Abbas, has said if there is no progress on peace
negotiations to settle the borders of a future Palestinian state,
Palestinians will push forward with unilateral steps towards recognition
and have threatened to pursue Israel for war crimes in the
international criminal court – both moves opposed by the US.