US envoy encourages stronger business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

In Jerusalem on Thursday, David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, speaks at the Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum, urging businesses to cooperate and create links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians.

By Sohaila Barghash

The statement by US ambassador angered Palestinian leaders greatly, furthermore, his remarks were attacked by many Palestinian officials as they were taken to be a form of encouragement of settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The occupied West Bank is the territory captured in a 1967 war and is supposed to be under Palestinian control based on International law, as part of a future Palestinian state.

Friedman has said that “There are many, many Palestinians that would like to be freed up to engage in business ventures with Israelis, and they’re entitled to that opportunity”.

To which Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee responded: “This constitutes a stab in the back of the Palestinian people”.

Mr. Youssef added: “We warn against any involvement or participation of any Palestinian in projects with settlers, or meetings called by the American ambassador.”

According to international law as well as most of the world, the settlements are illegal, which a claim Israel rejects.

Furthermore, US criticism of Israeli settlement construction and development, has died down since Trump took office.

Meanwhile, almost all Palestinians as well as many world citizens and officials, view engagement with the settlements in any way possible, as “normalization,” as doing business with Israelis in the West Bank legitimizes their being on the land and hinders future Palestinian sovereignty.

After US president, Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, followed by a transition of the US embassy to the city last May, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ended all political contacts with the White House.

Israel now illegally controls all of Jerusalem, including the eastern territory, which was captured in 1967, and claims it its capital.

It was recently revealed that the US Consulate General in Jerusalem will be combined with the new US Embassy to Israel in March, which seeks to create a single diplomatic mission for both parties.

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