Trump’s State Department no longer calls West Bank ‘occupied’ in annual Israel report

WASHINGTON — The US State Department released its annual report on human rights violations around the world on Friday, and there was at least one discernible difference from past reports: It no longer refers to the West Bank as “occupied.”

Whereas previous iterations of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices had a section on “Israel and the Occupied Territories,” this year’s document refers instead to “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.

Last December, it was reported that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman asked the State Department to stop calling the West Bank occupied, which would make a noted departure in US policy

No indication of any change in that regard had materialized — until now.

In the past, Friedman had made remarks that were rebuffed by Washingtonas not reflecting official policy. Last September, for instance, he told Israel’s Walla news site he thought “the settlements are part of Israel.” State Dept. Spokesperson Heather Nauert later told reporters his comments marked no shift in the US position. Before his confirmation to the diplomatic role, Friedman was a staunch settlements supporter and columnist for right-wing Israeli publications.

The report released Friday also noted that the final status of Jerusalem, which US President Donald Trump has formally recognized as Israel’s capital while making plans to relocate the US embassy there, was still a matter of talks between both sides.

“On December 6, 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the report said. “It is the position of the United States that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”

Most of the rest of the report is similar to prior years, cataloging human rights abuses by by the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

The report said “the most significant human rights issues included terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated killings by nonstate groups and individuals; administrative detention of Palestinians, often extraterritorially in Israel; and legal requirements and official rhetoric that adversely affected the operating environment for human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).”

Read More: Times of Israel