US ambassador slams Israeli settlement growth in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a 'stupid' move
The US ambassador to Israel Tom Nides has called the continued construction of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank "a stupid thing" that impedes reaching a two-state solution.
Nides, who was appointed to his position by the US Senate in late 2021, made the comments while speaking to Jewish-American organisation Americans for Peace Now (APN) for an online event.
The ambassador said that, while he cannot "cannot stop everything", he has been working towards halting the advancement of the controversial E1 project since he took up the post in December.
The E1 project, which has faced long delays due to US and European diplomatic pressure, would see the settlement of Ma’aleh Edumim expand into areas of East Jerusalem and cut it off from the rest of the West Bank.
"I went full board on E1," he said in reference to the Israeli settlement plan. "It is a very important area which if [built] could cut off any possibility of a capital for the Palestinians."
Change in ambassador, shift in tone
The public comments represent a shift in stance from previous US ambassadors to Israel - especially to Nides's direct predecessor, David M. Friedman.
Friedman, a controversial appointee of ex-President Donald Trump, was a former head of ‘American Friends of Bet El institution’, an organisation that actively campaigned against the two-state solution and donated money to settlements in the West Bank.
Nides described himself during the event with APN as "centre-left",. He went on to say: "I’m left generally, but I put in the ‘centre’ just to make myself feel better."
Born to a Jewish-American family in Minnesota, Nides had an active early career in the Democratic party before moving to the banking sector and rose through the ranks to become CEO of Morgan Stanley in 2005.
He also served as part of the Obama administration, before declining to get involved in the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.