Kerry will meet in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then in Ramallah with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said yesterday in a statement.
Issues on the agenda include the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Psaki said.
It will be Kerry’s 10th visit to the Middle East as he tries to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Earlier this month, he said that “we are closer than we have been in years,” without offering details.
Israel is expected next week to announce that it will build additional settlements on territory that Abbas wants as a Palestinian state. At the same time, Israel is to release additional Palestinian prisoners.
The two previous rounds of prisoner releases were also accompanied by announcements of new construction.
The Israeli government’s pursuit of new settlement construction is a surmountable obstacle for the Obama administration, according to U.S. analysts of the Middle East.
Kerry “should keep his powder dry” in reacting to the settlements, Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said this week.
The linking of a settlement push with a prisoner release wasn’t accidental, said David Schenker, a former Pentagon policy aide on Arab politics who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The timing of the announcement is an unfortunate, but predictable consequence of the ongoing balancing act of the Israeli government,” Schenker said by e-mail. “Prisoner release — of Palestinians, many with blood on their hands — is extremely controversial and politically difficult for the government of Israel.”