PA, left-wing groups call to fire Friedman for annexation comments

Friedman's remarks came in an interview with the New York Times on Friday.

US AMBASSADOR to Israel David Friedman. (photo credit: Courtesy)
US AMBASSADOR to Israel David Friedman.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Palestinian Authority, as well as anti-settlement groups such as Peace Now and J Street, called for US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to be fired for saying that Israel has the right to annex part of the West Bank.
Friedman’s remarks came in an interview with The New York Times on Friday.
“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman said.
His words come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just before the April 9 elections, said that Israel would annex part of the West Bank.
Asked how the US would respond if Netanyahu made good on his promise, Friedman said, “We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves. These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”
Following Friedman’s interview, an administration official said, “Our policy has not changed.”
Friedman slammed the Obama administration, which allowed the passage of a UN Security Council Resolution in its waning days of office in 2016 that characterized the settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law, saying this gave “credence to Palestinian arguments that the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem belong to them.”
“Certainly Israel’s entitled to retain some portion of it,” he said.
Friedman had harsh words for the Palestinian Authority for what he said was their attempt to sabotage the upcoming “economic workshop” in Bahrain.
“It’s unfair the way the Palestinians have described this as a bribe or as an attempt to buy off their national aspirations,” he said. “It’s not at all. It’s an attempt to give life to their aspirations by creating a viable economy.”
He said that were it not for “massive pressure” and intimidation from the PA, Palestinian businesspeople would attend the conference.
“There is almost no Palestinian business leader that wants to refrain from meeting with some of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, when the topic of the discussion is limited to giving money to the Palestinians,” he said. “I know firsthand, they want to come.”
The US ambassador also slammed the Palestinian Authority for its “very, very poor track record on human rights,” saying that its institutions “don’t give anyone in the region sufficient comfort that Palestinian autonomy is not threatening.”
The Palestinian Authority – which in the past has called Friedman the “son of a dog” – went on the attack, saying on Sunday that it was considering filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against him for “jeopardizing peace and security in the Middle East.”
Calling Friedman a “settler,” the PA Foreign Ministry and several Palestinian officials and groups strongly condemned the US envoy for his support for Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.
“Friedman is ignorant in political work and belongs to the state of settlers,” the ministry said. “Friedman’s remarks are an extension of the US administration’s policy, which is fully biased in favor of the occupation and its expansionist colonial policies. The remarks of the settler Friedman expose the truth about him and his ideas, as well as those of his settler peers. We are studying whether his racist rhetoric is sufficient to file a complaint against him with the International Criminal Court for trying to impose his racist visions and threatening peace and security in the region, as well as exposing the Palestinian people to several dangers and conspiracies.”
Ibrahim Milhem, a spokesman for the PA government, denounced Friedman as “the ambassador of settlements.” He said that Friedman and US President Donald Trump’s advisers, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, are “clowns and circus actors lacking political maturity.”
Trump’s ambassador “provides enough background in order for everyone not to attend the Manama meeting,” said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. “Their vision is about annexation of occupied territory, a war crime under international law.”
Former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath, who serves as adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Palestinians were boycotting the US administration because of its measures on the ground that undermine the two-state solution.
The US, he claimed, was imposing the Trump’s peace plan on the ground without announcing it.
“There won’t be a lasting and comprehensive peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” Sha’ath said.
Jamal Muheissen, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said that Palestinians were unanimously opposed to the American peace plan, “which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Accusing the US and Israel of waging economic war on the Palestinians, Muheissen said that it was time for the “Palestinian street” to sound its voice.
The Fatah leadership said in a statement that Friedman’s statements show that the US has abandoned the two-state solution.
“Do these statements represent the official US stance or the position of extremist settlers in Israel?” it asked.
Hamas, for its part, called for launching terrorist attacks in the West Bank in response to the US envoy’s statements. It also called on the PA to immediately halt security coordination with Israel in the West Bank. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that Friedman’s statements “reflect the depth of American complicity in the aggression against the Palestinians.” The statements, he added, are “completely consistent with the views of the far-Right in Israel and demonstrate the US administration’s disregard for all Arab positions.”
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said that the US envoy’s statements “reflects the destructive colonialist mentality of the extremist US administration.”
Peace Now issued a statement calling Friedman a “Trojan Horse in the service of the settler Right that is sabotaging the interest of Israel and the chances for peace.”
And Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the left-wing US J Street, said: “David Friedman has once again made clear that he is acting not as the US Ambassador to Israel, but as the settlement movement’s ambassador to the United States. By essentially giving the Netanyahu government a green light to begin unilaterally annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank, the Trump administration is endorsing a flagrant violation of international law.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, on the other hand, came out with a statement supporting Friedman, saying that the Trump administration’s world view, which he said Friedman articulated, “is perhaps the only one that will bring about a change and cause the Palestinians to understand that boycotting Israel and the United States and supporting terrorism and incitement will not bring any achievement and that they will have the most to lose by refusing peace.”