Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Friedman during his confirmation hearing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman told a closed door meeting yesterday in Jerusalem that a massive evacuation of Jewish settlements from the West Bank could lead to a civil war in Israel.

According to three people who attended the meeting, of the conference of presidents of the Jewish organizations in North America and shared their notes with me, Friedman said that the approximately 400,000 settlers who live in the West Bank "are not going anywhere…and significant evacuation could result in a civil war. This is my opinion".

Friedman was asked if he thought the reason will be the refusal of IDF soldiers to obey the orders of the government. He explained that Israel’s military is more and more being lead by "Religious Zionists" who are committed to this land because they see it as their God-given Land.

The history

The future of the settlements is one of the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Israel pulled out unilaterally from Gaza it evacuated all 8,000 settlers who lived there.

In all previous negotiation rounds during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations there was a common understanding that in a future peace deal most of the Israeli settlements would be annexed to Israel and the rest will be evacuated. During several rounds of negotiations in the past, ideas were floated about some settlers staying in their homes as Palestinian citizens.

More from Friedman's remarks
  • The end of 2019 is an outside date for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and it will happen sooner.  
  • The administration is realistic and is not overselling the prospects of a peace deal, but Trump is committed to trying to reach one. The administration does not believe that threats or pressure on Israel would help achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians.
  • The claim that a peace deal is needed to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a platitude because for 25 years people have been saying that and Israel has only thrived and prospered.
  • A peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians will be an achievement but it will not solve problems like ISIS or Hezbollah and for that reason security for Israel and the region is paramount.
  • There must be Israeli Security control in the Jordan valley (the border area between the West Bank and Jordan) in any future peace deal, otherwise the West Bank will turn into a second Gaza.
  • Israeli-Palestinian future relationship should be not a marriage but a divorce. But until now the Palestinians have not shown themselves capable of building institutions that will allow them to live in peace with their neighbors.

Update: Via a U.S. Embassy spokesperson: 

“The Channel 10 report is based upon three attendees at the conference who failed to provide much of the context behind Ambassador Friedman’s comments as well as significant additional and related remarks by the Ambassador. Ambassador Friedman made clear in his remarks that the President is committed to a comprehensive peace agreement that benefits both Israelis and Palestinians and that the U.S. is working on a plan to achieve that goal. As for settlements, the Ambassador believes that unrestrained settlement growth is not helpful for peace."

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.