Tags: Israel | Trump Administration | david friedman | israel | rights | annex | west bank

US Ambassador: Israel Has Rights to Annex Some of West Bank

US Ambassador: Israel Has Rights to Annex Some of West Bank
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman with Vice President Mike Pence (AP)

Saturday, 08 June 2019 01:29 PM

Israel likely will be annexing "at least some, but unlikely all,” of the West Bank, US Ambassador David M. Friedman told The New York Times Saturday -- a move that could set off the Middle East in what many nations would be a provocative act.

The idea isn't new. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to begin annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Some have said this would be a fatal blow to a two-state solution, but the Trump adminstration has been working on a peace plan -- still not unveiled -- that ostensibly would take this into consideration.

“Under certain circumstances,” Friedman told the Times. “I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Friedman accused Palestinian leaders of wrongheadedly using “massive pressure” to deter business leaders from attending an economic conference that the administration is organizing this month in Bahrain. The reporting so far on the administration's long-awaited peace plan is that it focuses more on economics than politics.

Friedman told the Times that the plan aimed at improving the quality of life for Palestinians but was unlikely to lead quickly to a “permanent resolution to the conflict.”

“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 said, referring to the scale of Israeli intentions in teh West Bank.

“These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Most countries view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 war, as illegal. Israel disputes this, citing historical, political and religious ties as well as security needs.

It was unclear which West Bank territories Friedman meant and whether Israel's retention would be part of a peace accord that includes land swaps - an idea floated in past negotiations - rather than a unilateral move such as annexation.

The Trump plan had been expected to be unveiled during an economic conference in Bahrain this month. But a snap election in Israel set for Sept. 17 is likely to delay the roll-out.

Responding to Friedman's interview, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat tweeted: "Their vision is about annexation of occupied territory, a war crime under international law."

The Palestinian leadership has refused to deal with the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 war and annexed in a move unrecognized abroad, as their future capital.

In March, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured from Syria in the same war and later annexed.

Netanyahu told Army Radio in April that Trump's Golan step showed it was possible to annex West Bank settlements "within a gradual process and I prefer to do so with American recognition."

He added: "I have been discussing the question of extending sovereignty with the Americans for the past six months."

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said: "No plan for unilateral annexation by Israel of any portion of the West Bank has been presented by Israel to the U.S., nor is it under discussion."

Material from Reuters was used in this story.

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Israel likely will be annexing "at least some, but unlikely all," of the West Bank, US Ambassador David M. Friedman told The New York Times Saturday -- a move that could set off the Middle East in what many nations would be a provocative act.The idea isn't new. Prime...
david friedman, israel, rights, annex, west bank
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2019-29-08
Saturday, 08 June 2019 01:29 PM
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