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Against the backdrop of Israeli's announcement to build hundreds more illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials to push along the on-going attempts at peace talks.  Kerry will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and others over the next two days.

The White House is not disclosing many of the details, although Israel's security and Palestinian economic development are said to be high on the agenda.  Kerry did state, however, "Let me emphasize that the position of the United States is that we consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate," he told reporters at joint press conference with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu took a harder stance, saying, "I am concerned about the progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to avoid, run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace."

The issue of settlements continues to be at the forefront in light of the Palestinians published fact sheet on illegal settlement activity.  It points to an escalation of "illegal settlement activity," lambasting new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including more than 2,000 for which tenders were published this week.

Israel has scoffed at the report, warning the world that it will continue to build settlements.  Tel Aviv accuses Palestinians "of trying either to isolate or to boycott the state of Israel while holding negotiations with it."

Reports are also surfacing that the Obama administration is working on its own plan for a Palestinian state, based on pre-1967 boarders.  Kerry denied such reports.  Meanwhile, Israel indicated it would ease its demands if the U.S. puts more pressure on Iran to halt nuclear production.





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