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Washington distances itself from ambassador’s remarks on settlements

Image of US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman [newcrescent47/Twitter]
US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman [newcrescent47/Twitter]

US State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said that remarks by US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, about settlements do not reflect US policy about the issue, news agencies reported on Friday.

“[Friedman’s comments] should not be read as a shift in US policy,” she said. “I just want to be clear that our policy [regarding settlements has not changed. I want to be crystal clear,” she added.

The US regards Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to the achievement of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In an interview with an Israeli news website, Friedman said that Israel was “only occupying 2 per cent of the West Bank” and should retain, for historical security and religious considerations, “a meaningful portion” of that territory under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Speaking to the Israeli website, he said: “I think the settlements are part of Israel. I think that was always the expectation when Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967.”

However, the UN Resolution 242, signed after the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Sinai and Golan Heights calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the lands occupied during the conflict.

“Obviously, there is important security considerations to those settlements,” Friedman said, referring to the settlement in the West Bank occupied in 1967.

He added: “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.”

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, described Friedman as “completely ignorant, not just of US policy but the fact that the occupation refers to the whole of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

Shaath continued: “It also shows a complete ignorance of resolution 242, in which there is no reference to settlements.”

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