A forced evacuation of West Bank settlements could spark a civil war in Israel, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman told Jewish American leaders in Jerusalem, according to a report on Channel 10 news.
The ambassador spoke on Tuesday at a private off the record briefing to a mission to Israel by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations.
Friedman’s comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were reported in Hebrew by journalist Barak Ravid, both on air and on his twitter feed.
Portions of the Israeli right-wing public have long feared that a large scale settlement evacuation could lead to a civil war.
Friedman told the Jewish mission that this was his personal belief as well, particularly given the increasing number of national-religious officers who hold command positions in the IDF. These are whose commitment to the land stems from their belief that it was given to them by God, Friedman said.
On the issue of relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Friedman said it would not happen any later than 2019. Friedman threw his support behind the Israeli contention that it in any final status resolution to the conflict it must hold onto the Jordan Valley for security reasons or risk it turning into a second Gaza.
Given that the Palestinians have not shown they can build institutions that will allow them to live in peace with their neighbors, their relationship to Israel should be viewed as a divorce rather than a marriage, Friedman said.
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Both the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Conference of Presidents said Friedman’s remarks were taken out of context.
The embassy said, “the Channel 10 report is based on three attendees at the conference who failed to provide much of the context behind Ambassador Friedman’s comments as well as significant additional and related remarks by the Ambassador.”
“Ambassador Friedman made clear in his remarks that the President is committed to a comprehensive peace agreement that benefits both Israelis and Palestinians and that the U.S. is working on a plan to achieve that goal. As for settlements, the Ambassador believes that unrestrained settlement growth is not helpful for peace,” the embassy said.
Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said, “the comments appear to be out of context and thereby distort both the intent and the meaning of what the ambassador was saying.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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