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US ambassador says evacuating West Bank settlements ‘would be a recipe for disaster’

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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.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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12 Responses

  1. eljay on October 17, 2019, 1:00 pm

    … Friedman was asked about … 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.” …

    Typical Zionist: He’s asked about Israeli colonies in occupied, not-Israeli territory and he deliberately and anti-Semitically conflates Israel with Jews.

  2. Kay24 on October 17, 2019, 6:02 pm

    Now that Trump has thrown the Kurds under the bus, and given Turkey part of Syria, would he please his dear friends and those who finance his campaign by doing the same with the Palestinians? Nothing is impossible with this corrupt man. Last time he promised Adelson Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and he delivered. Jared will be busy.

  3. btbLondon on October 18, 2019, 8:18 am

    I do not expect to read about anything that Freidman says that I agree with but this is bizaare.

    —the US Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “promoted peace”

    The peace of the graveyard, maybe

    —“uprooting” Jews or Arabs in the event of a US peace plan in the region would be “inhumane.”

    While daily uprooting of Palestinians by the Israeli authorities is presumable the route to a Noble Peace Prize (well Kissinger got one for bombing Cambodia so there’s still hope)

    —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.”

    But routine demolishing of the homes of Palestinians is totally realistic.

  4. Misterioso on October 18, 2019, 8:39 am

    Off topic, but well worth reading:

    Exploiting The Ignorant: A Recent Example—An Analysis (18 October 2019) by Professor Lawrence Davidson

    Part I—Demi Lovato Gets Baptized

    In the 4 October 2019 issue of Rolling Stone magazine it was reported that the 27-year-old “pop, pop-rock, and R&B” singer-actress Demi Lovato had made a trip to Israel in order to, among other things, be baptized in the Jordan River. Here is how she described it: “When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes. … Spirituality is so important to me … to be baptized in the Jordan river—the same place Jesus was baptized—I’ve never felt more renewed in my life.” The trip drew attention because it was financed by anonymous donors, reportedly in the amount of $150,000, and required her to allow posted reports of her experiences. Among those reports were these statements:

    “There is something absolutely magical about Israel” and “This trip has been so important for my well-being, my heart, and my soul. I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel.”

    There quickly followed a backlash from those who saw her trip as an endorsement of the state of Israel despite its apartheid nature. The criticism upset Lovato, and so, on an Instagram post, she tried to set things straight: “No one told me there would be anything wrong with going or that I could possibly be offending anyone, with that being said, I’m sorry if I hurt or offended anyone, that was not my intention. … This was meant to be a spiritual experience for me NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT and now I realize it hurt people and for that I’m sorry.” This Instagram apology was deleted soon after posting—perhaps because it offended the anonymous parties that paid for her trip.

    If you look at the rather sparse coverage of this incident, both here in the U.S. and in Israel, you will notice that the main question being considered by the media is, Who sponsored Lovato’s trip? Was it the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, some Christian Zionist outfit, or a combination of both? Actually, I don’t think it matters much. We know that the Israeli government is trying to break the worldwide boycott (BDS) by luring celebrities to visit the country. It is no doubt assisted in this effort by all manner of Zionist organizations, including the Christian Zionists. Putting aside the question of who paid for the trip, there is a much more interesting aspect of this affair—Lovato’s striking ignorance.

    Part II—Public Knowledge

    The struggle between Zionists and Palestinians has been going on for over 100 years, counting from the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Zionist ideology which underlay the drive for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine inevitably drew resistance from the Arab population—both Muslim and Christian—that had been resident there for thousands of years. And that resistance was met by a typically violent response from the European Zionist invaders pouring into the area under the protection of the British imperium. That violent response was one that had been honed by centuries of European imperialism operating worldwide. It involved a deeply racist disdain for the “natives,” the use of military forces to suppress and oppress, and the strict separation of the European colonizers and the indigenous population. When the British finally left Palestine in 1948, the Israeli settler state maintained traditional imperialist practices. It has never stopped. That makes Israel a functioning colonial state founded and maintained in the spirit of 19th century imperialism.

    Today there are 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. Millions live in “59 refugee camps throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.” The Gaza Strip, which is 140 square miles (363 square kilometers), is crammed with 1.8 million mostly displaced Palestinians held hostage to an Israeli blockade. Gaza is often referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison.

    All of this, the history of Palestine and Israel, and the ongoing present situation, is public knowledge. For instance, here is a sample of stories to make recent headlines: In Israel racism is not just the right, it is the state (Haaretz, September 26, 2019); Israeli doctors and torture (972 Magazine, October 7, 2019); Israeli army raids Palestinian NGO in an attack on human rights (Amnesty International, September 19, 2019); Is Israel an ‘apartheid’ state? This U.N. report says yes (Washington Post, March 16, 2017). And, let’s throw in this final piece just for its scientific shock value: Israeli teachers discouraged from teaching evolution (124 News, August 30, 2019).

    This listing is but a proverbial drop in the bucket. In any given week there are tens of similar pieces appearing all over the world. Notice that most of the above sources are Israeli (Haaretz, 124 News, 972 magazine). Thus, even if all your information, left to right, comes from Israeli sources, you can’t help knowing that, to paraphrase a line from Hamlet, “something is rotten in the state of Israel.” Yet, apparently, Demi Lovato did not know. “No one told me there would be anything wrong with going or that I could possibly be offending anyone.” If we believe her, and I am inclined to do so, how can we explain such ignorance? It turns out that explaining it is not that hard.

    Part III—A Natural Attention Zone

    Most people pay attention to what immediately concerns them, both as relates to place and time. It is a logical and age-old orientation that no doubt evolved because it can provide immediate survival value. I call this phenomenon a natural attention zone, or, if you will, natural localism. In terms of territory, it translates into a familiarity with about 30 square miles around the place you live, work, study, and so forth . In the modern era, one can also virtually import points of particular personal interest into this attention zone from further away. For instance, American Zionists do this virtual import when it comes to Palestine/Israel. So do Palestinian Americans. However, if you have no reason to pay attention to a place, or you only pay attention to it in a highly selective way, you will not bother with seemingly superfluous information. You will just ignore it.

    Given her spirituality, Demi Lovato seems to have imported Bible stories into her attention zone—or at least did so as a child—and this helped shape her consciousness. But it never seems to have gone beyond Sunday school piety, and even this was overtaken as she aged by the demands of a successful singing and acting career. Then came a seductive offer. When given the chance to travel to “the places I’d read about in the Bible” Lovato apparently became aware of that “God-sized hole in my heart” and, so to speak, hopped on the airplane no questions asked. She was no doubt too excited to recognize that her spiritual adventure warranted further investigation—that, in fact, someone was using her yearning for renewed spirituality for their own political/ideological purposes. She is not alone in this regard.

    Millions of people go to Israel as tourists every year, and over half are religious Christians looking for the same “spiritual renewal” as Demi Lovato. They do so single-mindedly in a fashion that blinds most of them to the racist tragedy unfolding around them. Engrossed as they are in their Bible-centered attention zone, they never realize that their “renewing” pilgrimage legitimizes, and financially subsidizes, an apartheid state.

    You might ask, with millions of devout Christians going yearly to Israel, why the seductive offer to Demi Lovato? One can only assume that her celebrity status was seen as a useful vehicle to push back the international boycott of Israel movement—and a further lure to her large fan base to follow her example.

    Part IV—Conclusion

    Early in my tenure-track residency at West Chester University, my office computer was hacked by some anonymous Zionist source waging cyberwar against the free speech of those supporting the Palestinians. The way they did this was by rerouting several of my opinion pieces to literally thousands of random e-mail addresses. I called in the university IT folks and got the problem fixed within a few days.

    In the interim, it was a pretty interesting experience. On the one hand, it was potentially free advertising for my point of view—the hackers seemed not to have grasped this potential. On the other, it taught me the probability was high that the random recipients would see this as an annoying intrusion into their attention zone, where the Palestinian-Israeli struggle was seen as irrelevant. A common reply was, “Please stop sending me these e-mails. I don’t know anything about this and I don’t care.”

    And there we have it. Ignorance beyond one’s figurative 30 square miles is the default position. That opens most of us to all kinds of manipulation. Throw in an obsession with Bible stories and, as regards to Palestine/Israel, one’s vulnerability goes up. The alleged ancient “holiness” of the place neutralizes all of present Israel’s ongoing sins. Thus, ignorance in general, and ignorance of the Palestinian situation in particular, can be exploited to the benefit of racism and oppression. Demi Lovato is a recent example of this fact. When it comes to “Christian Tourism,” let the buyer beware.

    Lawrence Davidson
    [email protected]


  5. Misterioso on October 18, 2019, 9:46 am

    For the record:

    Kelly Craft’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. should be “interesting” given the fact that during her tenure as the Trump appointed U.S. ambassador to Canada, she proved herself to be utterly inept and soon became a laughing stock in Ottawa.

    “Kelly Craft: What are the Views of the New US Ambassador to the UN on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?” Arab America, Sept. 25/19

    By: Pamela Dimitrova/Arab America Contributing Writer

    “Earlier this month, Kelly Craft officially became the new US Ambassador to the United Nations, succeeding Nikki Haley, who resigned at the end of 2018. At the beginning of 2019, President Trump appointed Kelly Craft as a prospective nominee. Now as an official Ambassador, she made clear her plans to be ‘voice for freedom’ and to ‘advocate for the poor and weak’. But do these promises apply to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

    “This role is not new for Craft. She had been a previous member to a U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly under President George W. Bush, and until recently as U.S Ambassador to Canada. During her tenure, the relationship between Canada and the United States was strained by bitter trade negotiations, during which Mr. Trump accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of ‘making false statements’ and being ‘very dishonest and weak.’

    “The U.S.-U.N. Relationship”

    “For the last few years, the relationship between the United Nations and the United States has been rocky. The Trump administration has taken a skeptical stance toward U.N. operations. it has pulled out of numerous agreements in which the U.N. played key roles such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate deal.

    “It has also cut funding for the U.N. Palestinian agency; pulled out of the scandal-ridden U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as a U.N. arms trade treaty; and challenged what it asserts is the anti-American and anti-Israel bias at the body.

    “‘Israel will know no better friend than Craft’”

    “Even before she was officially appointed, Craft promised she would follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, Nikki Haley, regarding Israel. Haley was a strong supporter of Israel, accusing the international organization of intentionally pushing policies against Israel. She also urged the UN Security Council to devote less attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict and make Iran’s ‘incredibly destructive’ activities a priority in the Middle East. During her time at the UN, the US also voted for the first time against an annual resolution condemning Israel’s alleged ‘occupation’ of the Golan Heights.

    “Even though she hasn’t declared her official position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she indirectly confirmed her political and moral visions on it, by confirming the stance of her predecessor.

    “In June when the Senate Judiciary Committee took up Craft’s latest nomination, many concerns were raised regarding her lack of political experience, connections to President Trump as one of the sponsors of his 2016 campaign, and also her unclear stance about global issues such as climate change, Khashoggi’s killing, and international peace.

    “In responding to Democratic Senator Christopher Coons’ question on whether the president’s Middle East plan includes a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine, Craft said she had not been part of the peace process to date but that she would promote Israel normalizing itself at the U.N.

    “At the regularly scheduled debate in the UN Security Council this Friday, Craft expressed her support for the Jewish state: ‘The United States has always supported Israel in the past. The United States supports Israel today. The United States will always support Israel moving forward. Israel will have no better friend than Kelly Craft.’

    “Responding to Craft, Israeli UN envoy Danny Danon said, ‘The United States will have no better friend than the State of Israel. Ambassador Craft made it clear today that the US remains strongly committed to Israel and our security. With her help, together we can continue to change the culture at the United Nations.’

    “What’s next?”

    “Because of her little political experience, Ambassador Craft is likely to have a low-key presence, but insiders say the UN should actually be worried about that. That’s because the UN Secretary-General António Guterres worked hard to establish a good relationship with Ambassador Hailey because she was a cabinet member and it was believed that she sometimes advocated for the UN in Washington. Since she left, US had ‘downgraded’ the international organizations and refused to pay many of its bills, including its share of the Peacekeeping Budget and now it’s felt that the state would continue ignoring UN policies. Richard Gowan, from the International Crisis Group, fears that since Craft is a low-key ambassador, then she wouldn’t be able to build a ‘bridge’ between the US and the UN.”

  6. genesto on October 18, 2019, 1:00 pm

    Actually, Friedman makes an excellent case for the single state solution. You don’t want to move anybody out of their homes? Really? Then stop the settlers from confiscating Palestinian land, and make the West Bank and Gaza part of a truly democratic Israel with equal rights for all. Everyone gets to stay where they are if they wish, but the Palestinians can buy or sell land, can move around and live wherever they wish.

    Thanks, David!

  7. James Canning on October 18, 2019, 4:53 pm

    David Friedman obviously fully endorses Israel’s Bantustan program for the occupied West Bank.
    Non-Jews will not even be 2nd-class citizens.

  8. ET on October 18, 2019, 8:42 pm

    LOAC __973 Geneva ,Article 49, ipso facto settlers are not being evacuated: They are being repatriated to State of Israel to fulfill UNSC 2334 towards setting the foundation for UNSC 242 Compliance negotiations to effect UNGA 181
    1. Disaster is Likud self-inflicted since 1967 when transfere began
    2.1. Post A/RES/43/177 Auspices Oslo Accords II Taba its Abbas_Netanyahu inflicted
    2. Friedman” Palestinian Resistance is ready to ink a Rome Statute, Article 98 Bi-lateral Immunity Agreement
    3. War Criminal Enterprise
    4. Status of Forces Agreement [SOFA]:
    4.1 Israeli settlers shall be repatriated under SOFA second Agreement on transfer of settlement geographicals in West Bank Areas “B” to State of Palestine Government
    4.2 How or where they resettled in Israel is not our problem to resolve

    • James Canning on October 19, 2019, 7:55 pm

      Do we assume David Friedman views the UN with contempt?

      • DaBakr on October 20, 2019, 1:48 am


        I would assume the answer is yes he does. Don’t you? A few days ago Mauritania, the nation holding the most slaves in the region if not the world was just elected to head the Human Rights Council. If that isn’t worthy of contempt or at least a laugh I don’t know what is.

  9. Vera Gottlieb on October 19, 2019, 2:45 pm

    And since when does the US concerns itself with “inhumane”???

  10. pabelmont on October 19, 2019, 8:21 pm

    Nice guy, says he doesn’t want to expel anyone, not Jews, not Palestinians.

    What he says. Window dressing. USA ambassador after all.

    But in the event I bet he would only give lip service to his expressed desire not to see Palestinians expelled. As happens, a few a day, even now, and probably without his comment, altho someone might ask him.

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