Israel only occupies 2% of West Bank, says U.S. ambassador

Marking the 50th anniversary of Israel's resettlement of the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, US Ambassador David Friedman told the Walla news portal that the "settlements are part of Israel".

There is mounting concern among Palestinian officials over what they see as a bias towards Israel in the Trump administration's much-vaunted hopes for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, not least over the White House's continuing refusal to commit itself to a two-state solution. According to long-held U.S. policy comporting with worldwide law, all territory captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967 is occupied territory, under dispute, the permanent status of which will be determined in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, serving as representative of the Palestinian people.

"They (Israelis) are only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank", Friedman said in an interview with the Israeli news site Walla. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday that Mr Friedman's comments should "not be read as a shift in United States policy".

Legally speaking, Israel occupies 100% of the West Bank, though as a practical matter deals with the Palestinian Authority ceding some security control in certain areas has the European Union estimating about 60% of the West Bank under direct military occupation. "I think that was always the expectation when Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967". And I think that's exactly what ...

Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 war.

"We'll try to get it done right, not done fast", Friedman added.

More news: Nirmala Sitharaman, US Defence Secretary James Mattis discuss cross-border terrorism

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers across the occupied West Bank, welcomed the ambassador's comments.

Another Palestinian official said: "Israel occupies 100% of the West Bank". Friedman added, "The 1967 borders were viewed by everybody as not secure".

"It should not be read as a change in USA policy".

The illegal construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands serves as the major obstacle to a peaceful two-state settlement of the decade's long conflict.

"I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed", Nauert said. But as Friedman must know, Israel's control of the West Bank - geographically, topographically, politically, economically, and in any other way imaginable - can not be dwarfed into his two-percent figure.

  • Rita Burton