Washington distances itself from ambassador's remarks on settlements

Houston Chronicle

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War, and does not regard construction there as part of the settlement enterprise, has never claimed sovereignty in the West Bank.

"I think the settlements are part of Israel", Friedman stressed.

US President Donald Trump is seeking to restart frozen peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Settlers on Friday praised US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for saying settlements in the West Bank were "part of Israel" and that the two-state solution "has largely lost its meaning", arguing that he was only describing the reality on the ground.

"They (Israelis) are only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank", Friedman said in an interview with the Israeli news site Walla.

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David Friedman's comments were met with anger and ridicule, as Palestinians remain at odds with decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Three Israelis have been shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police say.

"I think that was always the expectation when [UN] resolution 242 was adopted in 1967", he said.

"So there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank", he continued. And I think that's exactly what, you know, Israel has done.

The US' ambassador to Israel has been admonished by Washington DC for giving an interview in which he suggested that only two per cent of land in the West Bank is occupied by Israel.

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"The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders", he told Israeli Walla.

More than 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the territory that are regarded as illegal by most of the worldwide community.

Even if Friedman is merely referring to areas in the West Bank that are under the control of settlements, the figure is actually 10% and if he is referring to areas exclusively reserved to Israelis, which are no-go areas for Palestinians, the figure is 40%. "It should also not indicate a shift in USA policy".

"I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed", Nauert said.

Al-Quds said Israel rejected an American request to give Palestinians control over a road that goes through Area C that serve the new town of Rawabi, north of Ramallah.

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