Washington distances itself from ambassador's remarks on settlements

Israeli construction teams work on a concrete border wall to run above and below ground along the Gaza border September 2016

And yet, it was the second time the State Department spokesman had come to her podium to walk back comments from the Israel envoy this month, after Friedman referred to the "alleged occupation" in a Jerusalem Post interview on September 1, confusing many as to whether USA policy had shifted.

Later on Thursday night, Israeli soldiers abducted four Palestinians from Ya'bad town, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and one from Silat al-Harithiya, west of Jenin.

The Trump State Department's reaction was both swift and harsh.

In the interview, Friedman also expressed sympathy to the idea of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, stating that the Jewish settlements have "important nationalistic, historical, religious significance". I mean, they're only occupying 2% of the West Bank.

The US ambassador is a vocal supporter of Israel's illegal settlement activities in the occupied territories and its occupation even though they contradict with official US policy.

The statement brought an angry response from Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

David Friedman being sworn in by VP Pence.

Even if Friedman is merely referring to areas in the West Bank that are under the control of settlements, the figure is actually 10% and if he is referring to areas exclusively reserved to Israelis, which are no-go areas for Palestinians, the figure is 40%.

But Revivi, who is vying to be the next chairman of the Yesha Council, reinforced Friedman's comments.

"[Friedman's comments] should not be read as a shift in USA policy", she said.

"I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed", she added, with emphasis.

"I don't know where that came from", Nauert said about Friedman's "2 percent" assessment.

Elsewhere, Israeli soldiers abducted, on Thursday at dawn, several Palestinians during invasions and searches of homes in the occupied West Bank, and clashed with many youngsters near Jerusalem.

In other news, the papers reported on preparations in Gaza to receive the Palestinian government of Rami Hamdallah, which is expected to arrive there on Monday following rise in efforts to reunify the West Bank and Gaza Strip and end their 10-year-long division following the 2007 Hamas coup. "I think that was always the expectation when Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967".

In an expansive interview with Israeli media outlet Walla! "The 1967 borders were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn't need for peace and security". Tel Aviv seems to have already eroded the viability of the two-state solution. The group's president Debra DeLee said Friedman's comments are "outrageous, unacceptable, and flat-out wrong".

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