Sunday 1 October 2017 - 07:23

US distances itself from Israeli envoy as his 2% remarks come under fire

Story Code : 673314
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a ceremony in the Old City of al-Quds Jerusalem on May 21, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a ceremony in the Old City of al-Quds Jerusalem on May 21, 2017.
Friedman claimed the regime is "only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank," and Israel’s illegal settlements were “always the expectation."
The current US envoy, who once served as the president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an institution supporting the illegal settlement of Bet El, made the comments in an Interview, released by Israeli news website Walla.
"Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem," said Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat on Saturday. "It is not the first time that Mr. David Friedman has exploited his position as US ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government's policies of occupation and annexation."
Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, described the remarks "very bad news for the future of any American attempt to make peace in the Middle East."
Friedman is in "absolute ignorance of facts of law and of the position of the United States," he added.
Following the US envoy’s remarks, the US State Department undermined Friedman partly by promoting Trump’s son-in-law.
“We have some very effective leaders and representatives for the US government, including Jason Greenblatt and Mr. [Jared] Kushner (pictured below), who are spending an awful lot of time in the region trying to get both sides together to have talks about a lasting existence side by side. The president has made that one of his top priorities," said the US State Department Heather Nauert.
Three weeks earlier, Nauert had been forced to distance herself from Friedman as he had used the term “alleged occupation," in an interview with Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post, questioning the act of occupation, some of which is officially recognized by the United States.
Nauert took the chance to portray Ivanka Trump’s Jewish husband as the at helm of dealing with the issues in the region.
The Jewish presidential son-in-law has previously been tapped as a negotiator to bring about peace between Israel and Palestinians
"I think it indicates just how important this is to the president that he has put those two in charge of negotiating that. In terms of the ambassador, I can’t comment any more for you on that other than to say our policy here has not changed," said the spokeswoman.
Under pressure over Friedman’s remarks, the spokeswoman further claimed that she had "not had the chance to speak to the ambassador, so I will hesitate at commenting too much on what he said. I was not there. I have not heard it. I have not heard the context in which that conversation was had. But I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed."
The nonprofit organization Americans for Peace Now called on the US president to fire the envoy as he "made statements that blatantly contradict long-held United States policy, as well as objective facts and international law.”
US ‘disappointed’ by Interpol recognition of Palestine
In her Thursday remarks, Nauert also asserted that the US is “disappointed” over Interpol’s recent decision to recognize Palestine as a country.
"We were disappointed in the vote. It grants Palestinian Authority country status in Interpol. We believe that that vote unnecessarily politicizes the important law enforcement body. We believe it also complicates efforts to achieve a historic conflict-ending agreement between the parties."
Hailed as a “great friend to the Jewish people” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump has mended ties with Israel that had gone sour under his predecessor, President Barak Obama.
Just like the Obama era, Trump and his associates ignore the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, which serves as one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.
In recent months, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement expansion across the occupied Palestinian territories in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.