US Ambassador: Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria 'part of Israel'


US State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said that remarks by US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, about settlements do not reflect US policy about the issue, news agencies reported on Friday.

And yet, it was the second time the State Department spokesman had come to her podium to walk back comments from the Israel envoy this month, after Friedman referred to the "alleged occupation" in a Jerusalem Post interview on September 1, confusing many as to whether USA policy had shifted.

The Trump State Department's reaction was both swift and harsh.

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.

The Palestinians have limited autonomy in 40 percent of the area, with Israel in full control over the remaining 60 percent.

David Friedman being sworn in by VP Pence.

Friedman referred to the "important nationalistic, historical, and religious significance" of these communities, commenting, "I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis, and Israel views the settlers as Israelis".

The claim - which runs contrary to decades-old USA policy, continued by the Trump administration - "should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations" and "should not be read as a shift in U.S. policy", State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters. "I want to be crystal clear", she added.

The comments contradict the view of most of the worldwide community, including the United States, who see all Israeli settlement building over the agreed 1967 Six Day War borders as illegal and a major obstacle to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Abbas has always been a critic of violence, but has remained quiet in the past when attacks against Israelis took place in the West Bank.

In the Walla interview, Friedman cited UN Security Council Resolution 242, which passed in November 1967, that said a Middle East peace deal should include a withdrawal of "Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict". "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.

"When Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967, it was, and remains today, the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody", Friedman told Walla.