US en­voy down­plays Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion, faces flak

Khaleej Times - - MIDDLE EAST - AFP

oc­cu­pied jerusalem — The US am­bas­sador in Tel Aviv has an­gered Pales­tini­ans with a com­ment down­play­ing Is­rael’s 50-year oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank, the sec­ond such spat in a month.

In a video interview with Is­raeli news site Walla, broad­cast in full on Fri­day, am­bas­sador David Friedman said the Jewish state is “only oc­cu­py­ing two per cent of the West Bank”.

It brought an an­gry re­sponse from Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion sec­re­tary gen­eral Saeb Erekat af­ter an ex­cerpt from the interview was aired on Thurs­day even­ing.

“Is­rael is in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised as the oc­cu­py­ing power over 100 per cent of Pales­tine, in­clud­ing in and around oc­cu­pied east Jerusalem,” Erekat said.

He said Friedman’s lat­est com­ment was “not only false and mis­lead­ing but con­tra­dicts in­ter­na­tional law, United Na­tions res­o­lu­tions and also the his­tor­i­cal US po­si­tion”.

“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,” Erekat added.

Early in Septem­ber, Friedman caused a stir when in an interview with the Jerusalem Post he re­ferred to the “al­leged oc­cu­pa­tion”. A US of­fi­cial told then that the am­bas­sador’s com­ment “does not rep­re­sent a shift in US pol­icy”. This time too, the State Depart­ment ap­peared to dis­tance it­self from its en­voy. “His com­ments... should not be read as a way to pre­judge the out­come of any ne­go­ti­a­tion that the US would have with Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans,” spokes­woman Heather Nauert told re­porters in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day. “It should not be read as a change in US pol­icy.”

Is­rael oc­cu­pied the West Bank in 1967 war and later oc­cu­pied east Jerusalem in a move never recog­nised by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

More than 600,000 Is­raelis now live in set­tle­ments in the ter­ri­tory which are re­garded as il­le­gal by most of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is seek­ing to restart frozen peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. –

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