US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, speaks at the Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum in Jerusalem February 21, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 21 February 2019

US envoy urges tighter business ties between Israeli settlers, Palestinians

  • David Friedman was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians

JERUSALEM: The US ambassador to Israel on Thursday urged deeper business ties between Israeli settlers and Palestinian businessmen in the occupied West Bank, angering Palestinian leaders.
David Friedman, who was appointed by US President Donald Trump, was speaking in Jerusalem at a forum to encourage business links between Israeli settlements and Palestinians.
“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,” Friedman told Reuters at the two-day forum attended by Israeli government officials, international businessmen and a handful of Palestinians.
Friedman’s remarks were immediately attacked by Palestinian officials as encouraging settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.
“This constitutes a stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” said Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
“We warn against any involvement or participation of any Palestinian in projects with settlers, or meetings called by the American ambassador.”
Most of the world considers the settlements illegal under international law, a position Israel rejects. US criticism of Israeli settlement building has died down since Trump took office.
Many Palestinians view engagement with the settlements as “normalization,” arguing that doing business with Israelis in the West Bank legitimizes their presence and hinders future Palestinian sovereignty.
However, thousands of Palestinians work in settlements, often in manufacturing or construction jobs which they say offer higher wages than similar jobs in Palestinian cities.
Haldun Al-Husseini, a Palestinian garment manufacturer from Jerusalem who attended the forum, says business with Israelis is key to improving the Palestinian economy, where unemployment stands at 32 percent.
“Most of my business comes from Israelis,” Husseini said. “If we don’t work together, we will not improve Palestinian lives.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas severed all political contacts with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and opened a US embassy in the city last May.
Those decisions delighted Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in 1967, as its capital. But the moves dismayed Palestinians who see east Jerusalem as their capital.
Earlier this week, it was revealed the United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new US Embassy to Israel in March, creating a single diplomatic mission for both parties.

Saudi Arabia joins Arab anger over ‘theft of occupied Golan Heights’

Updated 27 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Arabia joins Arab anger over ‘theft of occupied Golan Heights’

  • Israel seized part of the Golan during the 1967 Six-Day War, subsequently annexing it in 1981
  • US President Trump officially recognized Israel's sovereignty of the Golan Heights on March 25, 2019

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia joined Arab states on Monday in condemning a decision by the United States to recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Breaking decades of international consensus, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation at the White House on Monday recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the border area that Israel seized from Syria in 1967. 

Saudi Arabia firmly rejected the decision and affirmed its position that Golan Heights was occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The declaration, made by the US, is a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the report said.

The US decision was a violation of Security Council resolutions 242 of 1967 and 497 of 1981, and would have devastating implications on the peace process in the Middle East, as well as security and stability in the region, Saudi Arabia’s official statement said.

Saudi Arabia called on all parties to respect the decisions of international legitimacy and the charter of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Arab League Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said that the decision “does not change the area’s status” as illegally occupied territory,

Syria said the decision was a blatant attack on its sovereignty. 

“Trump does not have the right or the legal authority to legitimize the occupation,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Opposition chief Nasr Al-Hariri said Trump’s decision would “lead to more violence and instability, and it will have negative effects on efforts to engineer peace in the region.”

Lebanon said the move “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”

“The Golan Heights are Syrian Arab land, no decision can change this, and no country can revisit history by transferring ownership of land from one country to another,” the Foreign Ministry said.