The U.S. ambassador to Israel said on Tuesday the Trump administration understands a need for Israel to have “overriding security control” in the West Bank in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
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Addressing a convention of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, Friedman gave no details of the U.S. blueprint. But he appeared to suggest it was in Israel’s best interests to engage now on the deal, while the United States has a president sympathetic to its security concerns.
“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand the existential risk to Israel if Judea and Samaria are overcome by terrorists in the manner that befell the Gaza Strip after the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from this territory?” Friedman said.
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Friedman, who used the biblical terms for the West Bank, was referring to the 2005 pullout of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza, territory seized by Hamas Islamists two years later in a brief war with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah movement.
“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand the need for Israel to maintain overriding security control of Judea and Samaria and a permanent defense position in the Jordan Valley?” he said.
Israel has long rejected any return to what it has described as indefensible boundaries that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. It has said it must maintain military control of the West Bank, which it captured in that conflict along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Friedman’s comments did not say what “overriding” Israeli security control in the West Bank would entail. But his reference to a permanent defense post in its eastern sector, bordering Jordan, seemed to suggest at least a partial troop presence.