The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, caused a major ruckus on Thursday when he explained in an interview that the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 intended for Israel to retain most of the land Israel conquered in the Six-Day War.
In an interview with the Hebrew-language Walla! news outlet, Friedman, who was a successful lawyer, explained his interpretation of the resolution.
“I think the settlements are part of Israel,” he said. “I think that was always the expectation when [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967. . . It was and remains today the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody.”
“The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders,” he said. “The existing borders, the ‘1967 borders’ were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security.”
“So there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank. And I think that’s exactly what, you know, Israel has done – I mean they’re only occupying two percent of the West Bank. There is important nationalistic, historical, religious significance to those settlements and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis, and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.”
The interviewer, Yaakov Eilon, asked Friedman, “At least part of the settlements will have to go down as part of the deal. True or false?”
Ambassador Friedman answered cryptically, “Wait and see.”
Friedman also told Walla! that the concept of a two-state solution “has lost its meaning, or at least has a different meaning for different people.”
Oded Revivi of the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council praised Friedman for his statements.
“Ambassador Friedman should be commended for using facts to describe the reality in Judea and Samaria,” Revivi said in a statement.
“All of the Israeli towns and cities plus all infrastructure, including roads, adds up to less than two percent of what is described as the West Bank,” he said. “For decades the international community has been eating up Palestinian propaganda without checking the reality on the ground.”
“Peace is about two peoples living side-by-side and was never about ethnically cleansing Jews from Judea,” Revivi added.“This Yom Kippur, it’s time the world atones for their past sins and acknowledges that our communities, where Jews and Palestinians live, drive and work alongside each other, are in fact the key to lasting peace.”
Revivi is mayor of the city of Efrat, a religious city south of Jerusalem that employs hundreds of Palestinians from neighboring villages.
The U.S. State Department was not as supportive of Friedman’s use of facts. Later on Thursday, Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters that the ambassador’s comments should “not be read as a shift in US policy.”
“I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed,” she added. ”I want to be crystal clear .”
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary general Saeb Erekat reacted angrily to Friedman’s statements.
“Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem,” Erekat said on Friday, according to AFP.
He said that Friedman’s comment was “not only false and misleading but contradicts international law, United Nations resolutions and also the historical U.S. position”.
“It is not the first time that Mr. David Friedman has exploited his position as U.S. ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government’s policies of occupation and annexation,” Erekat stated.