THE US ambassador to Israel drew ire from the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Washington alike after claiming that Tel Aviv only occupies 2 per cent of the West Bank.
Washington was forced to distance itself from David Friedman’s comments on Thursday after he said that the illegal Israeli settlements which cover much of the occupied West Bank on stolen Palestinian land “are part of Israel.”
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said his comments “should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations that the US would have with the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
She insisted: “It should also not indicate a shift in US policy” — that settlement expansion is a barrier to a two-state solution.
PLO executive committee member and veteran peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi said: “The US ambassador to Israel has proved once again that he is completely removed from reality.
“Not only does the ambassador break from longstanding US policy, he is also at odds with the international legal, political and moral consensus,” she said.
Ms Ashrawi said Mr Friedman “cannot impose his alternative facts or realities on an entire people that has been held captive under a brutal occupation for half a century.”
Mr Friedman said in December that the US embassy would move from Israeli capital Tel Aviv to to Jerusalem, the occupied territory that Palestine claims as its future capital.
He repeated the claim this month, but President Donald Trump has already renewed a veto on legislation moving the embassy, contradicting an election pledge.