Palestinians are planning mass protests and the media is going berserk after U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said in an interview be believes Israel has the right to “retain” some of the Israeli communities in the West Bank.
The media, using part of Friedman’s interview with and subsequent article by The New York Times, has reported that the ambassador used the words “annex” and “unilateral.”
Actually, Friedman, said: “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
Friedman likely was responding to questions about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise in April that he would begin annexing part of the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967. While Netanyahu probably said that to gain more right-wing votes (which he did), the controversial issue has raised ire among Palestinians and supporters of a two-state solution who say that a final status solution must be negotiated.
Israel’s critics, in fact, consider Jewish “settlements” in the West Bank as illegal. Any annexation taken unilaterally on Israel’s part is expected to lead to violence. Of course, this would not be an issue if the Arab and Muslim world would not in a constant state of war against Israel. The overwhelming majority have not followed the example of Egypt and Jordan, choosing people over terror.
In The New York Times interview, Friedman declined to say how the United States would respond if Netanyahu did annex West Bank land.
“We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves,” Friedman told the newspaper. “These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”
The Jerusalem Post noted the misreporting and subsequent hullabaloo: “Friedman neither said the word ‘annex’ nor ‘unilateral’ in the interview, but all of a sudden his words were taken as if the Trump administration had suddenly given Israel a green light to annex the West Bank, something that Netanyahu put squarely on the agenda in the days leading up to the April 9 election when he said this was something he might consider.”
Israeli ministers rushed to defend Friedman’s remarks, which only added fuel to the fire. For example, Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin, said this showed “a public readiness” to accept Israel’s intention to declare sovereignty.
Economy Minister Eli Cohen of the Kulanu party wrote on Twitter: “Now, after 52 years, the time is ripe to start extending Israeli sovereignty for now, over the settlement blocs, like in Jerusalem. Sooner or later other countries will recognize it.”
The Palestinian Authority said it would consider filing a complaint against Freidman at the International Criminal Court.
“In what logic does Friedman think that Israel has the right to annex parts of the West Bank?” the PA’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “On what reality did he base his conviction? On international law prohibiting the annexation of territory by force? Or the reality imposed by the occupation authorities?”
The statement also insulted the ambassador: “This person who is illiterate in politics, history and geography, and who belongs to the state of the settlements… has nothing to do with logic, justice or law unless they serve the occupation state which he is eager to defend by all means.”
Under President Donald Trump, America has taken several pro-Israel stances including moving the embassy to Jerusalem and dropping the word “occupied” from official State Department literature when referring to the West Bank. But despite this – and the news – the official position of the United States has remained unchanged.
Not really in need of an excuse to riot, those behind the Palestinians’ weekly border protests announced that this week’s protests will focus on Friedman: “No annexing the West Bank, Friedman shut up.”
Meanwhile, five U.S. senators including two leading Democrat presidential candidates introduced a resolution decrying any Israeli plan to annex West Bank land.
“Unilateral annexation of portions of the West Bank would jeopardize prospects for a two-state solution, harm Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors, threaten Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, and undermine Israel’s security,” said the non-binding resolution.
Democrat hopefuls for president Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, and Elizabeth Warren, helped write the resolution.