US Ambassador Friedman: Israel ‘has right to retain’ some of Judea and Samaria

Friedman said Israel is entitled to a least some portion of Judea and Samaria in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday. 

By World Israel News Staff

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The New York Times in an interview published on Sunday.

Mr. Friedman “declined to say” what the U.S. reaction would be if Israel decided to annex parts of Judea and Samaria, the Times reported.

“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,” Mr. Friedman said in the interview. “These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”’

“Certainly Israel’s entitled to retain some portion of it,” he said, referring to Judea and Samaria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during Israel’s recent election campaign that he would move to start annexing parts of Judea and Samaria. His pledge was met with praise from right-wing quarters but threats of violence from the Palestinian Authority and criticism from left-wing Jewish groups, including in the U.S.

The official Palestinian reaction to Friedman’s remarks came swiftly. On Sunday, WAFA, the Palestinian news agency, published remarks from the Secretary General of Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Saeb Erekat, who tweeted that “the vision of the American side to annex occupied territories is a war crime according to the international law.”

The New York Times accepts the Palestinian view that Israel is in Judea and Samaria illegally, saying that the move proposed by Friedman “would violate international law and could be a fatal blow to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

However, there isn’t a consensus that Israel occupies Judea and Samaria illegally as a strong case has been built up over the years by numerous legal scholars that Israel’s control of those territories is not illegal.

Friedman indirectly made reference to this in his interview, criticizing the Obama administration for permitting passage of a U.N. resolution in 2016 condemning Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Friedman said the move bolstered Palestinian arguments “that the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem belong to them,” the Times reports.

When asked by the Times which side bore most of the blame for the failure to settle the conflict, Friedman said, “There’s more blame on the Palestinian side,” although Israel had “made its own mistakes.”

The ambassador also criticized the Palestinian leadership for using “massive pressure” to prevent Palestinian business leaders from participating in the Bahrain conference next week. The conference, which will take place this month and is organized by the Trump administration, will focus on the economic aspects of Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

The PA reiterated on Sunday that it would boycott the conference, WAFA reported.