David Friedman
David FriedmanReuters

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman warned Jewish American leaders on Sunday that Israel could face the risk of civil war if it ever evicted thousands of residents of Judea and Samaria from their homes, Channel 10 News reported on Monday.

According to the report, Friedman’s comments came during a meeting with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, which is visiting Jerusalem this week.

Friedman's remarks were quoted by three attendees at the meeting who kept a record of his remarks.

He reportedly also told his audience that religious Zionist IDF officers might refuse orders to evict Jewish residents from their homes because they believed that it is forbidden due to God's promise that the land is given to the Jewish people.

He further stated that “the claim that a peace agreement is needed to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a stale one...For 25 years people have said that the situation cannot continue, but what happened in those years? Israel has only grown and developed.”

On the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Friedman reportedly said, "We do not want to raise expectations about the chances of reaching a peace agreement too much. We are realistic. We want a peace agreement, but we know that this will not destroy Hezbollah or ISIS.”

Friedman also strongly criticized the PA leadership, according to the sources, saying, "They have not shown that they are capable of building institutions that will allow them to live in peace with their neighbors. We must look at the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians not as a marriage but as a divorce.”

Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement following Monday’s report, “We have seen the reports on the off-the-record address held with Ambassador David Friedman. The words attributed to him were taken out of context, are incomplete, and are therefore a distortion of the ambassador’s remarks.”

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said, “The Channel 10 report is based upon 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."