Breaking with longstanding American policy, the U.S. ambassador to Israel sought to legitimize Jewish settlements in the West Bank and minimized the extent of the Israeli occupation.
In excerpts published from an interview with Israeli website Walla!News, Friedman claimed that Israel is “only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank.” The excerpts did not provide any further explanation backing Friedman’s assertion, which is incorrect.
According to the 1994 internationally recognized deal establishing the Palestinian Authority, Israel maintains full military and civilian control of 60% of the West Bank in addition to military control over another 22% of the area and full control of its borders.
In the interview, Friedman also expressed sympathy to the idea of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, stating that the Jewish settlements have “important nationalistic, historical, religious significance.” When asked if at least part of the settlements will have to be removed as part of a peace agreement, Friedman replied: “wait and see.”
Consecutive American administrations, both Democratic and Republicans, have stated that the US does not support the legitimacy of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Americans for Peace Now called on Trump to recall Friedman for making statements that “blatantly contradict long-held United States policy.” The group’s president Debra DeLee said Friedman’s comments are “outrageous, unacceptable, and flat-out wrong.”