The U.S. State Department issued a swift statement of its own on Thursday in a move to “clarify” remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, expressed earlier in the day in an English-language interview with the Hebrew-language Walla! news outlet.
“I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in addressing the remarks, saying the ambassador’s statements represented his personal views all along.
“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. It should also not indicate a shift in U.S. policy,” she added.
“I think that was always the expectation when [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967. . . It was and remains today the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody,” he told Walla!
Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erekat, who is in the United States awaiting a lung transplant, called Friedman’s remarks “false and misleading,” multiple news agencies reported Saturday. Erekat said the ambassador’s view “contradicts international law, United Nations resolutions and also the historical U.S. position… Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem.
“Such positions undermine ongoing efforts toward achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine,” Erekat added, based on the pre-1967 borders.
But the facts of the prior United Nations resolutions tell a different tale.
“The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders,” according to Friedman, who told the interviewer: “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.
“So there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank. And I think that’s exactly what, you know, Israel has done,”said Friedman, formerly a partner in a law firm prior to accepting his position as ambassador.