Settlers hail United States ambassador for saying settlements part of Israel

During a Thursday interview broadcast on the Walla news website, Friedman was asked about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to speculate on the Trump administration's plans moving forward on the issue.

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

Friedman told Walla news that he thinks "the settlements are part of Israel", according a preview released on Thursday morning.

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. 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.

Global law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

"It is not the first time that Mr. David Friedman has exploited his position as USA ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government's policies of occupation and annexation", said senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is now in the United States awaiting a lung transplant.

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".

"His comments - and I want to be crystal clear about this - should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations that the U.S. would have with the Israelis and the Palestinians,"said spokeswoman Heather Nauert. I want to be crystal clear", she added".

"I don't know where that came from", Nauert said about Friedman's "2 percent" assessment.

According to estimates by the European Union and NGOs across the spectrum, Israel occupies around 60 percent of the West Bank including both settlements and closed military areas. There has been a 40% increase in illegal settlements in 2016 at the same time the United States government is handing Israel $10.1 million military aid each single calendar day.

"I think that was always the expectation when resolution 242 was adopted in 1967", Friedman said.

Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks.

  • Eleanor Harrison