U.S. Urges Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank to Deepen Business Relationship

An International Economic Forum convened to develop business relationships between Israelis and Palestinians living in the West Bank concluded with a U.S. call to deepen financial relations, despite a long hiatus of a political process for the decades old Mideast conflict.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stressed that “here are many, many Palestinians that would like to be freed up to engage in business ventures with Israelis, and they’re entitled to that opportunity.”

The top diplomat said there was no justification for people to be “suffer” or “be forced to put their lives on hold in the interim” when “we can do a lot of good, and still work on the political process and not hold the people hostage.

Friedman’s remarks were immediately condemned by Palestinian officials, who claimed Washington has become a supporter of Israel’s settlement activities, on land the Palestinians demand for their future state.

Wasel Abu Youssef, who is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, referred to the American diplomat’s statement as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” and warned “against any involvement or participation of any Palestinian in projects with settlers, or meetings called by the American Ambassador.”

In addition to threating Palestinians from conducting business with Jewish settlers, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyal al-Maliki asserted that the United States has become an entity underserving of a response from Palestinian leadership, and “not even worthy of a reaction from a Palestinian child.”

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. State Department for TV7’s request for comment.