Saturday, October 7, 2017

Why Is Everyone Mad? Ambassador David Friedman Accurately Described Longstanding US Policy Towards West Bank Settlements by Lee Smith

...As a matter of historical fact, Ambassador Friedman is 100 percent correct. The failure of the US State Department to openly back him suggests a troubling lack of institutional memory—and a troubling lack of political discipline coming from the top.

Lee Smith..
03 October '17..

Last week, the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel David Friedman set off a public controversy—pitting the US Ambassador to Israel against the US State Department and the Palestinian Authority—when he told an Israeli journalist that “the settlements are a part of Israel.”

No way, said Nabil Shaath, a senior advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “This alleged ambassador of the United States,” said Shaath, “has absolute ignorance of facts of law of the position of the United States.”

US media reports charged that Friedman’s comments marked a “break with almost 25 years of American policy advocating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert scrambled to stanch the bleeding and suggested that other Trump officials, like the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt had a better handle on US policy than the US Ambassador did. In any case, Nauert said, Friedman’s remarks do “not indicate a shift in US policy.”

Nauert is right—sort of. And therein lies the rub. Friedman’s comments do indeed reflect longstanding US policy, which is rooted in UN Resolution 242, whose carefully-worded language referring to a future peace based on Israeli withdrawal “from territories occupied” in the 1967 conflict in exchange for “secure and recognized borders”—meaning borders that were different than the prior 1967 lines—was drafted by the US in the face of demands for an Israeli withdrawal from “the territories” or “all territories,” as suggested at various points by the British, the French, the Soviet Union, and various Arab states, led by Egypt.

The point of the American insistence on not specifying the extent of a future Israeli withdrawal, as Friedman explained in the interview last week, was that “Israel would be entitled to secure borders. The existing borders, the 1967 borders were viewed by everybody as not secure. So Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank—and it would return that which it didn’t need for… peace and security.”

Again, Friedman is clearly correct. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was never defined as illegal by U.N., nor is there any obligation for Israel to withdraw from the territories in the absence of a comprehensive peace with the Arab states (the Palestinians are never mentioned in Resolution 242).

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