Friedman Hints at Peace Deal With Israeli Control in Biblical Heartland

March 28, 2019

2 min read

The Trump administration understands the need for Israel to have “overriding security control” in the West Bank in any future peace deal with the Palestinians, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Tuesday.

Friedman is part of a White House team spearheading a still secret Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that Washington has said will be unveiled after Israeli elections on April 9.

Palestinians have called any peace proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump a non-starter.

Addressing a convention of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, Friedman gave no details of the U.S. blueprint. But he appeared to suggest it was in Israel’s best interests to engage now on the deal, while the United States has a president sympathetic to its security concerns.

“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand the existential risk to Israel if Judea and Samaria are overcome by terrorists in the manner that befell the Gaza Strip after the IDF withdrew from this territory?” said Friedman.

Friedman, who used the biblical terms for the West Bank, was referring to the 2005 pullout of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza, the coastal enclave seized by Hamas terrorists two years later in a brief yet bloody war with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah movement.

“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand the need for Israel to maintain overriding security control of Judea and Samaria and a permanent defense position in the Jordan Valley?” he said.

Israel has long rejected any return to what it has described as indefensible boundaries that existed before the Six-Day War in June of 1967. It has said it must maintain military control of the West Bank, which it captured in that conflict, along with eastern Jerusalem and Gaza.

Friedman’s comments did not say what “overriding” Israeli security control in the West Bank would entail. But his reference to a permanent defense post in its eastern sector, bordering Jordan, seemed to suggest at least a partial troop presence.

The Palestinians demand a full Israeli pullout from the West Bank and a return to the pre-1967 borders.

Trump’s Middle East adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is spearheading Washington’s peace efforts, but has not disclosed details.

Unlike his predecessors, Trump has not endorsed the goal of Palestinian statehood. On Monday, he signed a decree recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

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