The US ambassador to Tel Aviv, Tom Nides, announced Wednesday that the West Bank settlement growth is “infuriating,” warning that it is a “stupid thing” that impedes a two-state solution.
Speaking at a virtual event of the Americans for Peace Now organization, Nides said that he couldn’t stop the settlements, but: “We can’t do stupid things that impede us for a two-state solution."
“We can’t have the Israelis doing settlement growth in east Jerusalem or the West Bank. I’m a bit of a nag on this, including the idea of settlement growth – which infuriates me when they do things – infuriates the situation, both in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
The ambassador admitted that he has to pick and choose his battles, adding that he “would be lying” if he said that it was possible to avert “every single house that is built. I can’t stop everything, just so we are clear.”
He had fought to prevent the advancement of a 3,500-apartment project in an area of the Maaleh Adumim settlement known as E1.
The E1 project aims to surround the Palestinian towns and prevent the transformation of East Jerusalem into the capital of the future Palestinian state.
Construction of E1 would be a “disaster,” Nides said. “I went full board on E1... It is a very important area which, if [built] could cut off any possibility of capital for the Palestinians.”
Nides said he recognizes that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” but cautioned that “the final status of Jerusalem would have to be decided by the parties.”
The Trump administration also believed that the status of Jerusalem would be finalized through negotiations, he added.
The diplomat repeated the Biden administration’s pledge to reopen the Jerusalem Consulate General, which had been a de facto embassy for the Palestinian Authority until former president Donald Trump closed it in 2019.
“We want to open it,” said Nides, but Israel has “aggressively opposed it,” while the PA has desired the resumption of that mission.
He cautioned that both the Israelis and the PA “have made way too big a deal over this.”
Nides revealed that he is working with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to find a solution that stops the Palestinian Authority policy of paying monthly salaries to the families of Palestinian martyrs and prisoners.
“These martyr payments... have caused an enormous amount of problems,” Nides said, adding that it gives the “haters” an excuse not to support the PA based on the argument that it is “paying for people who killed Jews.”
The US ambassador praised efforts to improve economic conditions in the Palestinian territories, speaking of the importance of significant companies such as Google opening in Ramallah and that it is also vital to ensure that Palestinians have 4G technology.
Economic peace is limited without a two-state resolution to the conflict, said the diplomat, warning that “Palestinians can’t be bought off.”
The US ambassador expressed regret that the current circumstances do not allow the US administration to do anything to move the peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians until the next six months.
“I would be lying to you if I said I had a peace plan ready to roll out. At some point, would this administration engage in trying to do something broader? Maybe.”
Nides asserted that his concern is to maintain conditions that will enable a return to negotiations in the future based on the two-state solution because a “one-state solution is a disaster for everyone involved.”