The US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israeli news website Arutz Sheva on Thursday that he believed the US Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “promoted peace” and that “uprooting” Jews or Arabs in the event of a US peace plan in the region would be “inhumane.”
In an extensive interview with the news site, which covered topics from the 1967 war to Iran, Friedman was asked about President Donald Trump’s elusive peace plan, and the future status of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“That is a very important part of the plan,” Friedman said. “Having seen the experience of the evacuation of Gaza, I don’t believe that there is a realistic plan that can be implemented that will require anyone, Jew or Arab, to be forced to leave their home.”
Seemingly referring to the long held position of the Palestinians and the international community that any peace plan would require some of the hundreds of West Bank settlements to be evacuated, Friedman said “that would be a recipe for disaster.”
“So we are not of the view that any forced evacuations are achievable. And I say that for both Jewish and Arab perspectives,” Friedman continued.
Neither the interviewer nor Friedman made mention of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forcibly removed from their homes in 1948 and 1967, and the continued attempts by Israel of the forcible relocation of Palestinian communities like the Bedouins in Khan al-Ahmar.
When asked “no uprooting?”, Friedman responded saying it was “frankly an inhumane process — speaking about Jews or Arabs.”
“It failed in 2006, produced an extreme adverse reaction among Israelis. I think it’s a failed policy, and not something that we would advance,” he said, referring to the evacuation of Israel’s illegal settlements in Gaza in the mid-2000’s.
Friedman expressed his hopes for extending Israeli sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem the Golan Heights, and the West Bank, saying “we’ve made enormous progress on Jerusalem – if not 100% of the way home, we’re 95% of the way home.”
“The Golan was 100% of the way there in terms of the president’s recognition,” he said, lauding Trump’s decision earlier this year to recognize the occupied Syrian territory as part of Israel.
He also praised the “progress we’ve made” in the occupied West Bank and expressed hope that “even if not accepted immediately” the US can push a plan that “works for the state of Israel and the region, that the Palestinians can accept and that brings peace to the region.”
Friedman went on to praise the 1967 war, which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands more Palestinians and the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as “an extraordinary date for Israel and the world.”
Since his appointment as ambassador, Friedman has been a widely controversial figure amongst Palestinians and their supporters.
A staunch supporter of the settlement movement, Friedman caused outrage earlier this year when he said that he believed Israel had the right to annex portions of the West Bank — a proposal that, while illegal under international law, has gained significant traction in mainstream Israeli politics in recent months.
Friedman, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer, 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.