Ibrahim Melhem, spokesman for the Palestinian government, condemned on Saturday a fresh statement by US ambassador to “Israel”, David Friedman, in which he said that “Israel” has the right to annex at least “some” of the occupied West Bank.
In the interview published by the New York Times on Saturday, Friedman said that some degree of annexation of the West Bank would be legitimate. “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” he said.
“The absolute last thing the world needs is a failed Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan,” Friedman told the Times. “We’re relying upon the fact that the right plan, for the right time, will get the right reaction over time.”
“We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves,” Friedman said. “These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”
Melhem described Friedman as an “ambassador of settlements”, saying such remarks are typical of the US arrogance and reflect that “the foreign policy of the superpower [the United States] is dominated by a group of hard-core extremists like Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman who are not yet politically mature.”
Palestinian factions lashed at Friedman’s remarks. Fatah movement released a statement in which it asked whether “this is the stance of the U.S. administration or the stance of the most radical of settlers.”
Leader in Hamas, Basem Naim, said that Friedman’s remarks are “rejected” and that it reflect the “destructive colonial minality” of this “extremist” American administration. “Surely this will be a fatal “Knockdown” to the stability here and around, but also to the so-called international legitimacy”, he said.
Palestine Liberation Organization Chief Saeb Erekat tweeted that Friedman’s comments make it clear that the vision he shares with U.S. President Donald Trump is “annexation of occupied territory, which is a war crime according to international law.” According to Erekat, Friedman’s words serve as further incentive to boycott the peace workshop in Bahrain which is slated to take place later this month.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab also responded to the American envoy’s comments, saying that “the Palestinian people will not disappear, and like an olive tree they are planted in their ground. The age of colonialism is over.”
Mustafa Barghouti, senior member of Fatah, said Friedman’s remarks were rude but noted that they were not surprising because “Friedman has been identified a long time ago as the spokesman of the settlers.”
During campaigning for the first general election in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex West Bank Jewish settlements, a move long supported by most lawmakers in his alliance of right-wing and religious parties.
Following persistent expansion of the settlements by successive Netanyahu governments, more than 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, among three million Palestinians.
Much of the world considers Israeli settlements there illegal and would view annexation as compounding the crime.