Is U.S. Embassy lifting ban on official West Bank settlement visits?

“It seems as if we are talking about a change in US policy with respect to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria,” said a spokesman for the Binyamin Regional Council.

Tal Ovadia (R), Oded Rivivi (C), David Friedman (L) (photo credit: MIRI TZACHI)
Tal Ovadia (R), Oded Rivivi (C), David Friedman (L)
(photo credit: MIRI TZACHI)
US Ambassador David Friedman’s condolence call in the West Bank settlement of Adam on Monday left settler politicians wondering if a policy change had been made to allow visits to Area C by American Embassy officials.
“It seems as if we are talking about a change in US policy with respect to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria,” a spokesman for the Binyamin Regional Council said in a statement released by the council after the visit, adding that it appears as if “they are being treated just like the rest of the country.”
Efrat Council head Oded Reviv
i, who is also the Yesha Council’s foreign envoy, said: “It is encouraging to see Israelis treated equally by the [Trump administration] without paying attention to where they live, in stark contrast to the previous administration.”
Such a visit strengthens the administration’s “war on Palestinian terror” and disconnects it from the construction of Israeli homes and kindergartens in Judea and Samaria, Revivi said.
A US Embassy official said that “Ambassador Friedman paid a visit today to the Ovadia family in the settlement community of Adam. The family is mourning the loss of Yotam [Ovadia], a 31-year-old father of two small children, who was stabbed to death by a terrorist last week,” she said. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism,” the official said.
It is not Friedman’s first condolence call in the West Bank. When Likud MK Yehudah Glick lost his wife, Yaffa, Friedman traveled to the Otniel settlement to pay a condolence call. But that visit stemmed from their personal friendship; in this visit he represented the US government.
Prior to the Trump administration, officials stationed at the US Embassy have refrained from visiting parts of Israel over the pre-1967 lines, such as east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Those visits are made by the consul general or his staff, who are tasked with affairs dealing with those regions.
Friedman was one of the first to break with that protocol when he visited the Western Wall immediately upon his arrival in Israel in May 2017 to take up his new post. That was followed by an official visit from Trump.
Former US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro also broke with that policy when, in his capacity as an American envoy, he made a condolence call to the Nokdim home of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman when his mother died. Shapiro also paid a visit to Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein in the Neveh Daniel settlement when his wife died.
All other visits to the West Bank, including settlements in Area C, were made by the consul general.
Congressmen who come to Israel do not have the same restrictions and have traveled to West Bank settlements.
Yesha council head Hananel Durani said that Friedman’s visit made an important statement about the global nature of terror.
“This visit encourages and strengthens us and provides a show of support for the war against terror.”
“I hope the US government will continue to support Israel and the settlements with the same kind of courageous friendship the ambassador demonstrated today,” Durani said.
Ovadia was killed late Thursday while on his way home to prepare a special romantic dinner for his wife.
Palestinian terrorist Mohammed Yusuf, 17, managed to jump over the community’s security barrier and stabbed Ovadia in the back. He stabbed two others who came to Ovadia’s assistance. The third victim shot Yusuf, who was killed on the spot.
“I was heartbroken to see the tragic impact of the murder of Yotam Ovadia. A young mother who is now left alone to look after her two small children [and] parents who now mourn the murder of their only son,” Friedman said.
President Reuven Rivlin also visited the Ovadia family on Monday.
“The children do not understand what happened, but they feel as if something has changed,” he said.
Rivlin responded, “you need extra strength, because you are bearing both your own pain and grief along with your children’s grief.”