U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Thursday that Israel can expect to hold onto significant parts of Yehudah and Shomron under a peace plan being drafted now in Washington.
“I think the settlements are part of Israel,” he told Walla. “I think that was always the expectation when U.N. resolution 242 was adopted in 1967… The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders. The existing borders, the 1967 borders, were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn’t need for … peace and security.”
“So,” he continued, “there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank. And I think that’s exactly what … Israel has done. I mean, they’re only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank. There are important nationalistic, historical [and] religious significance to those settlements, and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis, and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.”
In response to the interviewer’s question, “At least some of the settlements will have to go down as part of the deal – true or false?” Friedman responded in Trumpian fashion, “Wait and see.”
The comments were made the day after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a ceremony to celebrate the return of the Jewish presence to Yehudah and Shomron that “we won’t uproot Jews or Arabs” in any peace agreement. “It isn’t just a question of the connection to the homeland, but before all that, it isn’t the way to make peace,” he said, referring to Hamas exploitation of evacuated Israeli towns in Kush Katif to launch rockets against Israel.
Not wishing to repeat the mistake of former Secretary of State John Kerry, who imposed fruitless deadlines on the peace talks, Friedman would not be drawn into deadline-making.
When asked when the Trump administration peace proposals might be ready to go, he said, “I would speculate within months, but we’re not holding ourselves to any hard deadline. We’ll try to get it done right, not done fast.”