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Palestinian leaders call Friedman a ‘threat to regional security’ after he justifies West Bank annexation

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Palestinian officials are up in arms once again over controversial comments made by a US official. This time, it’s US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

In an interview with the New York Times, published over the weekend, Friedman said that he believed Israel had the right to annex portions of the West Bank — a proposal that, while illegal under international law, has been gaining more traction in Israeli politics in recent months.

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” he said.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement Sunday saying it is considering filing a complaint against Friedman at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his comments, describing the ambassador as “a threat to regional peace and security.”

“What reasoning could justify Friedman’s logic that Israel has the right to annex parts of the West Bank? International law prohibits the annexation of a land by force, as well as a reality imposed by occupying powers,” the statement said.

His words are “an extension of the policy of the US administration, which is fully biased towards the occupation and its expansionist colonial policies,” it continued.

During the interview, Friedman went on to accuse Palestinian leaders of “wrongheadedly” putting pressure on Palestinian business leaders to boycott this month’s upcoming US-led “economic workshop” in Bahrain, the New York Times report said.

When asked how the US would respond if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would make good on election promises to annex West Bank land, Friedman responded:

“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. These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Friedman also made comments that Israel was “entitled” to portions of the occupied territory, and when asked if the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” included plans for a Palestinian state, he responded: “What’s a state?”

Palestine’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Friedman’s comments, saying that supporting annexation would signify “US complicity with Israeli colonial plans.”

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, senior PLO official and a fierce critic of the current US administration, was quoted by Al Jazeera that the US “was justifying land theft,” while Fatah officials stated that they didn’t know “if the US ambassador is representing the view of Israeli settlers or that of the US administration.”

In a piece for Haaretz, Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer wrote that Friedman’s interview shows that the ambassador “is clearly to the right of Netanyahu.” Of the interview, Pfeffer wrote:

So, if anything, Friedman was on his best behavior — for him at least — when he was expertly interviewed last week by David Halbfinger in The New York Times. He was speaking not as a private citizen but as the U.S. ambassador, sitting in his official residence (now moved to Jerusalem). And from his point of view, he was making a concession. Friedman fervently believes Israel has a right to all of the West Bank, but in the interview he was prepared to accept that “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” This was Friedman at his most moderate.

Friedman, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer, has been a staunch supporter of Israel’s settler movement and has been vocal about his disdain for the two-state solution. Prior to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Friedman was an open supporter of such a move.

Friedman also served as president of the American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva — a nonprofit group that supports the illegal settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where his name appears on several buildings in the settlement that he had directly funded with his organization.

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About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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14 Responses

  1. Kay24
    Kay24 on June 11, 2019, 12:02 pm

    Who can blame the Palestinians? This disgraceful man who was appointed by Trump, and got high approval from the pro Israel conservatives, was quite open in his bias towards the occupier, and wholly supported it’s theft of lands, even against international laws. He is a disgrace, and should not have been given ambassadorship to Israel.

    Some cringeworthy facts:

    Friedman volunteered to head American Friends of Bet El Institutions,[14] an organization that advocates against a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and provides around $2 million per year to the Israeli settlement Bet El.[2][15][16] The organization also received donations from the family foundation of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.[16] In 1999, Friedman dedicated the Friedman Faculty House.[17] The settlement runs the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva, where Friedman is a columnist.[15][18] In his writings and statements, Friedman repeatedly argued in support of Israeli settlements, declaring them legal.[13][19] He has also contributed to United Hatzalah (“united rescue”), an Israeli organization that provides emergency medical services,[2] and Aleh Negev, a village for disabled Bedouin and Jewish people in southern Israel.[2][10][13]”

    I would not want to work with him either.

  2. brent
    brent on June 11, 2019, 3:11 pm

    Israel retaining major settlements, like Ariel as part of a land swap has been discussed in the past. That being the case, it is conceivable Trump will make some move in that direction, especially if the PA continues to rebuke him and refuse to engage. Trump, the ultimate, egotistical bully, has shown his MO for all to see with his approach to China, North Korea, Iran, and Mexico. How the PA arrived at their approach to him is a mystery. He’s predictable. He understands and creates leverage, so it is possible he viewed the embassy move as granting a given to gain leverage over Netanyahu, outfoxing him. His saying he’d cut off all of Israel’s money if Netanyahu walked, puts his cutting off Palestinian money in context.

    If Abbas were thinking in terms of public opinion, he would have not have let his anger get the best of him and engaged, standing on principle, not agreeing when necessary. Also, if he wanted to influence Americans, he’d figure out how to take away Israel’s narrative it is defending. Public opinion is key.

    • Mooser
      Mooser on June 12, 2019, 12:07 pm

      ” He understands and creates leverage”

      You bet! Just look at what he did with the fortune he inherited.

      The only lever Trump understands is the shovel, and he keeps digging.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on June 12, 2019, 2:21 pm

        @ Mooser
        Friedman’s legal savvy re US bankruptcy law is what has kept Trump afloat , so I think Trump gives him all he wants, and Friedman knows it, and says and acts accordingly.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on June 12, 2019, 2:19 pm

      @ Brent: Trump’s “…saying he’d cut off all of Israel’s money if Netanyahu walked”–source?

  3. echinococcus
    echinococcus on June 12, 2019, 4:44 am

    “Public opinion is key”

    How about you stop selling your master’s voice as public opinion?

  4. James Canning
    James Canning on June 12, 2019, 12:14 pm

    David Friedman is a disgrace to the US diplomatic service. Will Friedman come out openly in support of Israel’s Bantustan program?

    • Citizen
      Citizen on June 12, 2019, 2:22 pm

      Well, if you’ve read this thread here, you would know he already has.

  5. LiberatePalestine
    LiberatePalestine on June 12, 2019, 5:33 pm

    → Friedman, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer

    Friedman is certainly a specialist in bankruptcy—moral and intellectual.

  6. mondonut
    mondonut on June 12, 2019, 6:38 pm

    Friedman said nothing of annexation, he said retain. You even provide his quote and still choose to misrepresent it. But even if he had, how is annexation not exactly what the One State crowd is asking for?

    • eljay
      eljay on June 12, 2019, 8:11 pm

      || mon donut: Friedman said nothing of annexation, he said retain. … ||

      Right, and the rapist said nothing about “shackled and chained”, he said “encouraged to remain”.

      || … But even if he had, how is annexation not exactly what the One State crowd is asking for? ||

      Are you really that dense, donut? (Rhetorical question.) Please point out where the “One State crowd is asking for” Israel to annex all of Partition-borders not-Israel to its religion-supremacist “Jewish State” construct.

      • LiberatePalestine
        LiberatePalestine on June 13, 2019, 2:58 am

        Those of us in «the One State crowd» want to replace the Zionist entity with a single state for all of Palestine (not including any non-Palestinian territory currently occupied by the Zionist entity) that shall establish formal equality and strive for substantive equality. Since we want to eliminate the Zionist entity, we certainly don’t ask the Zionist entity to annex any land anywhere.

  7. VQTilley
    VQTilley on June 14, 2019, 3:52 pm

    The only difference between the Friedman/Trump approach and earlier US administrations is Friedman’s saying openly what’s always been Israel’s plan. In that sense, it’s refreshing. The world has spent far too much time–over fifty wasted decades–on diplomatic myths and Israel’s lies and evasions while settlement construction ground forward. By now, Israel has integrated the West Bank irrevocably into Israel and also implanted a compliant Bantustan government (the PA) to run the Palestinian “reserves”. I really hate to hear dignitaries like Ms. Ashrawi still talking that talk, but the PA can’t retain its pretense to be a national leadership much longer in these conditions. It seems likely that Israel will try to declare formal annexation in all but the Bantustan areas before Trump is out of office. Then the anti-apartheid struggle can finally get some real footing in a push for full democracy.

  8. Ossinev
    Ossinev on June 15, 2019, 7:39 am

    @VQTilley
    I really hate to hear dignitaries like Ms. Ashrawi still talking that talk, but the PA can’t retain its pretense to be a national leadership much longer in these conditions”

    You have hit the nail on the head. A pivotal factor in the I/P conflict is what has become
    the blatantly Quisling role of the PA with the likes of Ashrawi and Erekat regularly floating the idea of “handing back the keys” but having no intention whatsoever of doing so because for the PA “leadership” it would automatically mean the loss of status and all the perks and privileges which they have become used to. With regards to the on/off elections there is in the background IMHO reason the fear that a one state solution party might emerge opposing them and that the younger generation of Palestinian voters would likely look at what the PA has (not) achieved and go for the 1SS.

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