Kerry also reassured Israelis that tough sanctions on Iran will remain in place during negotiations toward an international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes.
“We will approach this final negotiation with an absolute view about Israel’s security,” as well as the safety of the wider Middle East, Kerry said as he ended two days of talks in Israel and the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a vocal critic of the effort Kerry helped lead to broker an interim deal with Iran that caps its disputed nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions.
Netanyahu’s blunt appraisal that the deal was a catastrophic mistake marked the most public breach with the United States in years.
“The prime minister has every right in the world to make his views known about the security of his country,” Kerry said.
He predicted that Netanyahu will be helpful as world powers work toward a wider final deal with Iran in six months.
Netanyahu has made no public pledge to support that final deal, but has toned down his criticism.
Kerry’s two-day visit was partly aimed at lowering public tension with Israel over the Iran deal. He publicly endorsed Israel’s focus on defense and security using the same terminology Netanyahu routinely employs, that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.
Standing with Netanyahu on Thursday, Kerry made no public mention of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians, a roadblock to the peace deal he wants to forge and a routine irritant between Israel and the United States. He also did not mention the issue in brief remarks following a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry acknowledged that the Palestinians see “difficulties” in the talks.
Kerry and retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen also presented American proposals for possible security arrangements in the West Bank after any peace deal is struck. Reuters quoted one Palestinian official as saying Abbas had rejected the ideas, but Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the proposals remain a work in progress.
The presentation marked the first public acknowledgment of a new, more forceful role for the United States in moving talks ahead. It is not clear whether the advent of American proposals means the talks are at an impasse.
Details of Allen’s proposed West Bank security architecture remain secret, but people familiar with it have told The Post that it includes ideas to satisfy Israeli concerns about threats coming from Palestinian airspace and on the ground along the Jordan Valley. An international peacekeeping force has been widely reported to be one idea under discussion.