Amb. Friedman: US ready to recognize Israeli annexation in Judea and Samaria

America will recognize an Israeli decision to apply sovereignty to settlements.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said America is prepared to recognize an Israeli declaration of sovereignty over settlements in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley so long as the Jewish state accepts conditions requested by the Trump administration, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

In an interview with the newspaper to mark the second anniversary of the U.S. moving its embassy from from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Friedman said the Americans had three conditions they wanted Israel to fulfill, including acceptance of the Trump peace plan – something he acknowledged the Palestinians have so far refused to do.

Friedman said the mapping process of the areas Israel plans to annex has to be finished, Israel has to agree to a building freeze in settlements that will not be included in the areas designated for sovereignty, and the prime minister has to agree to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the Trump plan.

Washington does not plan to impose any other conditions, Friedman said, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already agreed to the third condition when he accepted the Trump plan when it was announced at the White House in January.

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If those conditions are met, “we will recognize Israeli sovereignty” in the areas to be annexed by Israel, Friedman said in the interview (the entirety of which will be published on Friday). Friedman said he expected the Israeli declaration would happen in the coming weeks.

The ambassador emphasized that it was up to Israel to declare sovereignty, and if it did so and met the conditions, America was prepared to recognize it.

Friedman acknowledged that the Palestinians currently do not want to come to the table, but that if they change their minds and agree, then Israel will be obligated to join the talks.

He said the Americans are setting a four-year window for the plan, which most likely corresponds to a second Trump term if the president is reelected later this year.

Hinting at the possibility of opposition leader Benny Gantz taking over as prime minister in 2022 as part of the unity deal, Friedman said it does not matter who is prime minister in Israel as long as that leader will agree to negotiate with the Palestinians and join “open and honest talks” during the four-year timeframe.

Friedman noted that by a building “freeze” the Americans mean the expansion of settlements not under sovereignty, but those settlements could continue building higher structures inside their existing boundaries.

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He said the freeze would affect some 15,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria while the other 400,000 people will live under the same conditions that exist inside the Green Line.

After having talked to Israelis at all levels, Friedman described places like Beit El north of Jerusalem and Hebron to the south as being the historic heart of Judea and Samaria. He said that even left-wingers in Israel are not interested in giving those places up in the framework of a peace agreement.

Had he not heard about the support from both sides of the political aisle, he said, “I would not be at peace with myself,” since it was clear that just as Americans would never give up the Statue of Liberty, Israelis will not agree to give up on those historic places.