US envoy to Israel, David Friedman, spoke at a business event in Ariel settlement yesterday, reportedly “the first ever official visit by a sitting American ambassador to a West Bank settlement”.
At the meeting, Friedman “met with a group of Israeli and Palestinian Arab business leaders to discuss joint economic ventures”.
The ambassador subsequently tweeted: “At the invitation of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, I met in Ariel with Palestinian & Israeli business leaders ready, willing & able to advance joint opportunity & peaceful coexistence. People want peace & we are ready to help! Is the Palestinian leadership listening?”
Until Donald Trump’s presidency, US ambassadors have not been allowed to cross the pre-1967 lines, much less visit the West Bank. However, as the Jerusalem Post noted, “from the moment Friedman arrived, he made condolence calls there and visited the Western Wall”.
However, the paper continued, “this is the first time, however, that he went to a settlement to attend an official conference as a representative of the US government”.
Ariel settlement lies deep in the northern West Bank. All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.