Binyamin Netanyahu accompanies David Friedman to the city of Ariel in Samaria
Binyamin Netanyahu accompanies David Friedman to the city of Ariel in Samaria REUTERS

The Trump administration expects Israel to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria within a matter of weeks, says US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – and is prepared to recognize the move.

In an interview released by Israel Hayom Wednesday morning, Friedman said the application of Israeli sovereignty to those areas of Judea and Samaria designated for Israel under the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan could happen as soon as the mapping process has been completed in the coming weeks.

Friedman also laid out the Trump administration’s terms for accepting Israeli sovereignty, emphasizing that the terms remained the same as those noted in the peace plan: the mapping out of the areas to be placed under sovereignty, Israel’s commitment to leave the door open to good-faith negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for a period of four years, and a partial freeze on the expansion of 15 Israeli towns outside of the major blocs.

“Once the mapping process has been completed, and once the Israeli government agrees to freeze construction in those parts of Area C which are not designated for [Israeli] sovereignty, and once the Prime Minister has agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the Trump plan – and he already agreed to that this Sunday – we will recognize Israeli sovereignty in the areas which under the [Trump] plan will become part of it [Israel].”

“The most important part here is that the State of Israel needs to declare sovereignty. We aren’t declaring sovereignty – Israel is, and afterwards we’ll be ready to recognize it. But, as the Secretary of State [Mike Pompeo] said, it is entirely an Israeli decision, so you have to be the ones to initiate it.”

When asked whether there would be any additional American conditions for recognizing Israeli sovereignty, beyond the three already listed and mentioned in the Trump administration’s peace plan, Friedman replied “No”.

Friedman went on to say that the third condition for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, that is, Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, did not specifically require Israel to agree to Palestinian statehood.

“On that issue, the condition is that the prime minister – and I don’t mean anyone in specifically, just whoever happens to be the prime minister of Israel – will agree to negotiate with the Palestinians, will invite them to meetings and deliberate with them in open talks and in good faith for a period of four years.”

“As of now, the Palestinians don’t want to come to the table. But if they change their mind two years from now and will agree [to negotiations], the prime minister will be obligated to hold talks with them. It is for a limited period of time, and we want the possibility [for talks] to be on the table for four years.”

Friedman also explained the American requirement for a four-year freeze in the expansion of Israeli towns outside the main blocs which are slated for Israeli sovereignty, saying that the condition applies to the 15 Israeli towns which will be in isolated enclaves of Israeli sovereignty. He also said that the restriction on construction in those 15 towns was only partial, barring Israel from expanding the land used for the towns in question.

“The vast majority of the settlements, home to some 400,000 people, will be living under the same terms as if there are inside of the Green Line. For about 10,000 to 15,000 people they will be living under Israeli sovereignty but without the possibility of expansion. But they’ll still be able to expand upwards.”

“From my talks with Israelis from every walk of life I’ve learned that they think this plan is the best for Israel. If I wouldn’t hear that, I wouldn’t be relaxed myself. It is clear to us that just as we Americans will never give up the Statue of Liberty, even though it is only a very small area, so too you would never give up on these places,” said Friedman, citing historical sites such as Hevron and Beit El.