Palestinians say U.S. ambassador helps Israel to annex part of West Bank

WARSAW (Reuters) - The Palestinian foreign minister said on Monday that comments by the U.S. ambassador to Israel were intended to help Israel annex parts of the occupied West Bank, underscoring the Palestinians’ distrust of the Trump administration.

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki is seen during preparatory meeting for the GCC, Arab and Islamic summits in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

The New York Times on Saturday quoted ambassador David Friedman as saying that under certain circumstances, Israel had the right to retain some of the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in April he intended to annex Jewish settlements built on land the Palestinians hope will form part of an eventual independent state.

“It seems that Friedman with his statement is trying to help Netanyahu to have the courage to take such a decision,” Riyad al-Maliki said during a visit to Warsaw.

“This is really something that the international community has to stand up, has to respond,” he said.

The United Nations and most countries view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal. Israel has expanded its settlements while a peace process aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been stalemated.

The White House will present the first part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s separate peace plan when it holds an international conference in Bahrain in late June to encourage investment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials have rebuked the U.S. effort, which they believe will be heavily biased in favor of Israel.

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and Palestinians have seen cuts in U.S. funding that have contributed to their economic distress in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials did not attend a Middle East peace conference organized in Warsaw in February.

“We do trust Poland...but we cannot trust the current U.S. administration after what it did against the Palestinians,” al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki said economic issues were not the Palestinians most important concern and focusing on them would not help to bring peace.

“We have said it many times, that all the money in the world, if it is being put to us in exchange for giving up on our right to Jerusalem as our capital or the right to establish our independent Palestinian state, we will choose the second and not the first.”

Reporting by Alan Charlish; Writing by Marcin Goclowski, Editing by Angus MacSwan