John Kerry threw a rhetorical jab at Israel, rebuking it for its latest round of West Bank settlement construction, after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem today. "Let me emphasize that the position of the United States is that we consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate," the secretary of state said. "I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree … that they could somehow condone or accept the settlements."
The statement is unusually strong, Mike Hanna at al-Jazeera observes; usually the US says the settlements are "not helpful." Kerry also used the visit with Abbas to announce $75 million in aid to Palestine. Earlier today, he met with Benjamin Netanyahu. Kerry used that visit to espouse optimism about the peace deal, but Netanyahu said he was "concerned … because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crisis, continuing to avoid historic decisions that are necessary to make genuine peace."