Kerry to visit Mideast in bid to calm Palestinian-Israeli tensions

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Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2013 annual report on international religious freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 28, 2014. Flanking Kerry is David Saperstein, left, President Obama’s nominee to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State

Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2013 annual report on international religious freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 28, 2014. Flanking Kerry is David Saperstein, left, President Obama’s nominee to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

BOSTON (Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday (Oct. 13) he plans to travel to the Middle East to try to calm violence between Palestinians and Israelis and move the situation “away from this precipice.”

The trip would mark Kerry’s most direct efforts to broker peace between the two sides since talks led by the United States failed last year. Israel and the Palestinian territories are experiencing their worst unrest in years.

“I will go there soon, at some point appropriately, and try to work to reengage and see if we can’t move that away from this precipice,” Kerry told an audience at an event sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.


READ: Religious Jews target of latest attacks by Palestinians


At least seven Israelis and 29 Palestinians, including 10 alleged attackers, have died in the violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his security cabinet, and officials said Israel was considering whether to seal off Palestinian districts in East Jerusalem, home of many of the assailants of the past two weeks, from the rest of the city.

Kerry said the United States’ goal for the region, the two-state solution, “could conceivably be stolen from everybody” if violence were to spiral out of control.

“You have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement,” Kerry said.


READ: Palestinian ‘Day of Rage’ attacks shake Jerusalem


Days of violence have been stirred in part by Muslim agitation over increasing Jewish visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam’s holiest site outside the Arabian Peninsula. It was also the site of two biblical Jewish temples.

The escalating violence has raised speculation that Palestinians could be embarking on another uprising or intifada, reflecting a new generation’s frustrations over their veteran leadership’s failure to achieve statehood.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Sandra Maler, Toni Reinhold