By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. said Monday there has been no change to its West Bank policy after Washington's envoy to Israel stirred controversy with comments suggesting Israel has a right to annex parts of the occupied territory.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, however, brushed off suggestions Ambassador David Friedman would face any kind of internal disciplinary action for the remarks, saying "there is no plan" to do so.
"The administration's position on the settlements has not changed. Our policy on the West Bank has not changed," she said.
In an interview with The New York Times over the weekend, Friedman, a staunch supporter of Israeli settlement building, declined to say how Washington would respond if Israel moved to unilaterally annex West Bank land after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to take the action in the run-up to April's nationwide elections.
“Under certain circumstances,” Friedman said, “I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
Friedman's comments elicited outrage from Palestinian officials who said they are considering filing a complaint against Friedman at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Palestine's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Friedman's statements "give proof that he was a threat to peace and security in the region."
The ministry said the envoy's words were "an extension of the policy of the U.S. administration, which is fully biased towards the occupation and its expansionist colonial policies."
"What reasoning could justify Friedman's logic that Israel has the right to annex parts of the West Bank?" the ministry asked. "International law prohibits the annexation of a land by force, as well as a reality imposed by occupying powers."
Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Six-Day war.