US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday spoke at the Kohelet Forum Conference, emphasizing that Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are not in violation of international law.
"A little bird has told me that you may be discussing today what you refer to as the 'Pompeo Doctrine' -categorically illegal," Friedman said, noting that he serves as "the US ambassador to a critical ally in a the determination by the Secretary of State that Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is not dangerous region."
"Since coming here l've worked to add one more item to a busy agenda: helping to find a fix to the issues that still linger from the Six Day War.
"In just six days of battle, Israel tripled in size, gained critical buffers against its enemies, reunited Jerusalem and demonstrated to the entire world that it was here to stay. In the years that followed, Israel entered into peace treaties with two of the warring nations on its border – Egypt and Jordan - and it returned more than 88% of the land that it captured.
"But it didn't make peace with everyone and when we came into office the lingering issues included three of significant importance: the status of 1) Jerusalem, 2) the Golan Heights and 3) Judea and Samaria. We have approached them in ascending order of complexity.
"If you read the statute, there is an affirmative mandate for such recognition. While the move of the embassy was subject to presidential waiver on the grounds of national security, the recognition itself had no such feature. For 22 years I watched from a distance as this law on the books of America was simply ignored by Republican and Democratic president alike."
Friedman stopped for a moment to recall: "I thank God that President Trump had the courage and the wisdom to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. I was in the room among a handful of senior members of the Trump Administration in 2017 when this issue was analyzed and debated. I won't say what went on in that room. But I will say that I will never forget that meeting or the understanding, analysis and leadership that President Trump brought to the table."
Regarding the administration's decision to recognize the Golan Heights, Friedman said: "UNSCR 242 - the agreed upon architecture for the resolution of this conflict - requires territorial concessions by Israel only in exchange for 'peace within secure and recognized boundaries.'"
"In recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, President Trump, evaluating the continuous malign and barbarous threats posed by Syria, concluded that no northern boundary for Israel would be secure except a boundary that incorporated the Golan. He acted well within the language of 242."
The administration's recent decision to recognize Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria as legal, Friedman said, is "certainly the most complicated of the issues because of the large indigenous Palestinian population."
"Over the years before we came into office, it's only gotten more complicated and more challenging. The proverbial goalposts have moved and moved - to the point today where they are no longer even on the field.
"Judea and Samaria – the name Judea says it all - is territory that historically had an important Jewish presence. As they say, it is the biblical heartland of Israel. It includes Hebron, where Abraham purchased the burial cave for his wife Sarah, Shilo, where the tabernacle rested for 369 years before the Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem, Bet El, where Jacob had his dream of the ladder ascending to heaven, Kasr al Yehud where Joshua led the Israelite nation into the Promised Land and John the Baptist baptized Jesus, and so many other famous locations.
"We then fast forward to 1967 and the Six Day War. After being attacked, Israel recovers Judea and Samaria from Jordan. Jordan had occupied Judea and Samaria for only 19 years and almost no one recognized its rights to the territory.
"So, intuitively, who has a good claim to the land? Israel, whose historical and legal rights were recognized by the League of Nations, Jordan, which was there for only 19 years with virtually no legitimacy, and which, in any event renounced its claim to territory West of the Jordan River in 1995, or the Ottomans who washed their hands of Palestine after WWI. The answer, with all due respect to all the scholars, seems obvious.
"And because that was so obvious, the goalposts started to move. The Armistice Line of 1949-a line to which the enemies of Israel agreed to hold until they re-armed and again sought Israel's destruction (as they did in 1973) – all of a sudden became the inviolate 'Green Line,' the limit of Israel's territorial entitlement.
"Resolution 242 became a mandate for Israel's withdrawal from all captured territory even though the resolution was heavily wordsmithed to avoid such an interpretation, and even though the US representative who negotiated 242, Yale Law School Dean Eugene Rostow, has said that Israel has an unassailable right to settle Judea and Samaria."
Friedman concluded: "The Pompeo Doctrine does not resolve the conflict over Judea and Samaria. But it does move the goalposts back onto the field."
"It does not obfuscate the very real issue that 2 million or more Palestinians reside in Judea and Samaria, and we all wish that they live in dignity, in peace, and with independence, pride and opportunity. We are committed to find a way to make that happen.