US Ambassador David Friedman.
(photo credit: MATTY STERN/US EMBASSY JERUSALEM)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Al Jazeera that a Palestinian state is impossible in the current complex political climate.
Friedman said that the upcoming summit in Bahrain, where some parts of US President Donald Trump's peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians will be revealed, will "jump-start the Palestinian economy," according to Al Jazeera.
Friedman said that the workshop "is an attempt to jump-start the Palestinian economy. That's the purpose and that's the focus: to improve the quality of life of Palestinians."
Friedman clarified that although representatives from the Palestinian Authority will not be attending, "there will be a significant showing from the Palestinian business community, and we will work with them as best we can.
"I don't know that the Palestinian Authority is the last word on how to create a better life for the Palestinians," he continued. "The Palestinians themselves should have a say in that."
The US ambassador later pointed out that the main goal is to "create momentum" towards peace. "The Palestinians have aspirations that have to be addressed," he stated. "The Israelis have issues that have to be addressed. This conflict needs to be resolved on a political level. But in order to create momentum... we need a significant improvement in the economy. That is the only way people on both sides will have faith that there is the opportunity for real peace."
Friedman then defended his stances supporting the annexation of "some" settlements in the West Bank, which he mentioned in an interview with The New York Times earlier in the month, saying that Israel has "450,000 Jews living in the West Bank whose status is unclear. It should be cleared up. No one should have to live on a cloud."
He admitted that it was unlikely that the US would support a Palestinian state right now, since "the last thing the region needs... is a failed Palestinian state between Israel and the Jordan River.
"It could be overtaken by Hamas, ISIS or al-Qaeda," he continued. "It is an existential threat to the State of Israel, possibly Jordan as well.
"We've seen what's happened in Gaza," Friedman explained. "There's not a single Jew living in Gaza. Israel controls the entire perimeter, whether on the land or the sea. Somehow, there are still rockets and missiles being fired. Israel has to be 100% sure that the Palestinians in the West Bank don't turn it into the Gaza Strip."
The ambassador then explained that the control Hamas has over the Gaza Strip is a contributing factor to the difficulty of establishing a Palestinian state as a solution. "If there's going to be a political solution, it will require that the PA become the governing body, both in the West Bank and Gaza," he said.
Continuing to point a finger at Hamas, Friedman said that, "the same beautiful beach you see in Tel Aviv that has brought so much tourism, investment and development is exactly the same beach that exists 60 miles to the south in Gaza. There's no good reason that Gaza can't have all that and more. Hamas is keeping it from happening."
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