Israel occupies just 2 percent of West Bank: US ambassador

Israel occupies just 2 percent of West Bank: US ambassador

Friedman continued: "There is important nationalistic, historical (and) religious significance to those settlements, and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis and Israel views the settlers as Israelis".

Friedman explained that a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is in the works, and will be presented in the coming months. Friedman further asserted that Israel is "only occupying two percent of the West Bank".

"You know, they're only occupying two percent of the West Bank", he elaborated, seemingly referring to the the built up area of settlements beyond the Green Line.

Responding to Friedman, a Palestinian official said to The Guardian that "Israel occupies 100% of the West Bank" and that if he were "a us citizen I would be extremely concerned that my ambassador in Israel is using his position to try to emphasize the importance of settlements to Israel". According to long-held USA policy comporting with global law, all territory captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967 is occupied territory, under dispute, the permanent status of which will be determined in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, serving as representative of the Palestinian people.

"Thus, today's interview merely confirms that there is no difference between David Friedman as ambassador and David Friedman the flame-throwing pundit for Israel's extremist, far-right settler news site, Arutz 7".

He refrained from answering when asked if settlements would be removed in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

US State Department spokeswoman Heath Nauert later said Friedman's remarks "should not be read as a change in US policy". Israel has full control over the 60 percent of the area, while the Palestinians have very limited autonomy over the remaining 40 percent.

The State Department distanced itself from its ambassador to Israel Thursday, after he broke with decades-long USA policy by claiming that Israeli settlements built after 1967 are a part of Israel.

Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, responded in a video clip on Twitter that the U.S ambassador had displayed "absolute ignorance of facts of law and of the position of the United States".

Israelis are not halting their illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, despite the fact that the worldwide community regards all the Israeli settlements across the West Bank as illegal under global law.

And yet, it was the second time the State Department spokesman had come to her podium to walk back comments from the Israel envoy this month, after Friedman referred to the "alleged occupation" ina Jerusalem Post interview on September 1, confusing many as to whether USA policy had shifted.

"Such positions undermine ongoing efforts towards achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine on the 1967 border", he said.

Friedman, Trump's former bankruptcy attorney, was appointed ambassador earlier this year, a move that was opposed by Democrats and some Jewish groups because of donations to Israeli settlements, opposition to Palestinian statehood and vocal support for hard-line Israeli government positions. Israel says most settlements are legal under Israeli law - though Israel has never extended its sovereignty over the West Bank. "If he would do so, he would understand that Israel occupies 100% of the West Bank and spending huge amount of effort to spread the settlements into the entirety of Area C".



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