Conflict & Justice

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits West Bank settlement ahead of John Kerry's arrival (VIDEO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a surprise visit to a West Bank Jewish settlement ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry's Mideast visit.

While the visit was played down by Israeli officials, Netanyahu's presence in Barkan — to dedicate an elementary school named after his late father, Benzion — was viewed as provocative.

The New York Times wrote that it highlighted "the obstacles to Washington’s push to revive the Mideast peace process."

The Associated Press said the visit called attention to "an issue that lies at the heart of the nearly five-year impasse in Mideast peace efforts" — Israeli settlement policy.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and say they will not negotiate while Israel continues to build settlements in "occupied territories."

Netanyahu says peace talks should resume immediately without any preconditions.

Kerry, meantime, is hoping that face time with leaders on both sides will get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians back on track.

Kerry had urged the Israelis to halt settlement expansion during his diplomatic push, The Jerusalem Post wrote.

However, in Barkan, part of three large settlement blocs that Israel has demanded be part of its state under any future agreement with the Palestinians, Netanyahu gave no indication that he supported such a compromise.

He told a classroom in the 25-year-old community, home to 500 families, that his late father, a professor of Jewish history who died last year at the age of 102, always stressed the "link to our land."

"The most important thing is to deepen the roots — because from these everything grows. Today, we are here deepening our roots."