The United States is ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as well as the illegal Israeli settlements in the rest of the occupied West Bank, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israel Hayom on Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview, Friedman said that the US is to recognise Israel’s sovereignty in the West Bank when the process of mapping the area is completed; when the Israeli government agrees to halt settlement construction in part of Area C; and when the Israeli Prime Minister agrees to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the “deal of the century”.
However, he stressed that the key element in imposing Israeli sovereignty on these areas is that Israel has to be the one to make the move. “It’s not the US that is declaring sovereignty but the Israeli government,” he explained. “Once it does, the US is ready to recognise it.”
In a related move, Israel’s High Court ruled on Wednesday that there is no need to block the Netanyahu-Gantz deal to form a coalition government. The agreement between the former staunch political enemies stipulates that the Israeli government will start to annex Palestinian territory at the beginning of July. Annexation of property acquired in war is, of course, illegal under international law.
The expansion of existing settlements would be suspended only in the so-called “secluded” settlements, although according to Friedman — sounding more like the Israeli Ambassador in the US than the US Ambassador in Israel — the settlers will be able to expand by building taller buildings.
Friedman pointed out that when Israel imposes its sovereignty over the proposed areas of the occupied West Bank, the majority of settlers, some 400,000 people, will continue living their lives as normal.
The ambassador claimed that illegal settlements like Beit El and those in the Palestinian city of Hebron are the historical heart of Israel’s “Judea and Samaria”. Israeli officials, he claimed, have told him that they have no intention of handing them over to the Palestinians as part of a peace agreement. “The administration knows that, just as Americans would never relinquish the area on which the Statue of Liberty stands, even though it’s a very small area, Israel would never agree to give up these places.”