The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned statements made last Wednesday, January 8, by US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in which he emphasized the right of Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank, which he referred to as “Judea and Samaria.”
Speaking at the far-right Kohelet Forum Conference in Jerusalem, Friedman said, “Judea and Samaria – the name Judea says it all – is territory that historically had an important Jewish presence. As they say, it is the biblical heartland of Israel.” He also referred to the US declaration that Israeli settlements in the occupied territory are “not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” and opted to describe the West Bank issue as a population issue, stating that it is “certainly the most complicated of the issues because of the large indigenous Palestinian population.” “I thank God that President Trump had the courage and the wisdom to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv,” said Friedman.
The US ambassador reportedly said during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the conference that the US Administration is preparing other announcements regarding the occupied West Bank. In a statement, the Palestinian foreign ministry slammed Friedman’s remarks as indicative of US disregard for UN resolutions and international law, which regard the West Bank as occupied territory. It stressed that such statements are an open incitement to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people, their property, homes, and holy places.
In addition, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by video link to the far-right Jerusalem policy forum, and claimed that Washington’s support for Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank will “advance peace” between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Washington’s top diplomat argued in his pre-recorded message that the Trump administration is adopting a “balanced and sober” approach to the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the same forum that the Trump administration’s backing was a “proper answer to the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to investigate Israel’s actions in Judea and Samaria.” Last month, the ICC’s chief prosecutor said she would like to get permission to launch a full investigation as soon as the Hague-based body’s jurisdiction had been established.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and soon began constructing settlements and transferring its own population to the newly occupied territory. All settlements are considered illegal under international law. Saeb Erekat, a top official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said that “Israeli colonial settlements are illegal under international law … ignoring facts doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”