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Israeli settlements 'not illegal', says Trump adviser

Contrary to Trump camp's statements, most countries believe Israeli settlements violate international law
Back in March at the AIPAC conference, Trump described the “unbreakable bond” between US and Israel (Reuters)

Donald Trump's adviser on Israel said on Wednesday that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are not illegal, adding that he believes the candidate agrees with him, putting the pair at odds with much of the world.

Speaking to AFP at a rooftop restaurant on Jerusalem's Mount Zion after a pro-Trump rally, David Friedman also said the US presidential candidate was "tremendously sceptical" about the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About 150 people, including right-wing Israelis and evangelical Christians, attended Wednesday's Trump rally outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, near the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The compound is holy to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. Located in East Jerusalem, it was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Asked whether Trump viewed the West Bank as part of Israel, as many far-right Israelis do, Friedman did not answer directly.

"I don't think he believes that the settlements are illegal," Friedman said.

Israeli religious nationalists see the Palestinian territory as part of the country, citing Jews' connection to the land from biblical times.

The US has intensified criticism of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank in recent months, warning that it is eating away at hopes for a two-state solution.

Settlements in the West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and are major stumbling blocks to peace efforts because they are built on land seized in the 1967 war which Palestinians see as part of their future state.

At an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March, Trump  described an “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel.

“When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one,” Trump told delegates, in a speech that heaped praise on Israel and derided Palestinians as perpetrators of violence.

Recalling rounds of failed peace talks between the two parties, Trump blamed Palestinian leaders.

“To make a great deal, you need two willing participants,” Trump said. “We know Israel is willing to deal. Israel has been trying to sit down at the negotiating table without preconditions for years.”

Friedman reiterated that Trump would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US embassy there - which would break with decades of precedent and put Washington at odds with most UN member states.

There were chants of "lock her up" when Trump's Democrat rival Hillary Clinton's name was mentioned at the rally ahead of the 8 November vote - a common refrain among Trump supporters who want to see her jailed over an emails scandal.

"I hate Hillary. She's the same like (Barack) Obama," said Ran Hofman, 54, who waved an Israeli flag. "They screw up the whole world."

A brief video message from Trump of about one minute was played at the event.

"Together we will stand up to the enemies like Iran, bent on destroying Israel and her people," Trump said. "Together we will make America and Israel safe again."

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