US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides ended his policy of refusing to visit any settlements in the West Bank on Thursday, making a condolence visit to the family of one of the three Israelis killed in a terror attack earlier this week.
“I came here to show respect. I think it’s the right thing to do, and that’s why I’m here,” Nides told the relatives of Tamir Avihai at their home in the northern West Bank settlement of Kiryat Netafim, in a recording obtained by Kan news.
Avihai’s relatives thanked Nides for paying his respects and said that they planned to continue living in the West Bank, arguing that leaving would hand a victory to those who had carried out the terror attack.
Upon taking the job a year ago, Nides said he “absolutely won’t” make any visits to the settlements, restoring traditional US policy that had been maintained until then-US president Donald Trump appointed David Friedman to the role in 2016. Friedman made a handful of trips beyond the Green Line and was a staunch advocate for Israeli settlements before, during, and after his tenure.
“I take upon myself exactly what I’ve asked other people to do — try not to do things that agitate and inflame the situation,” Nidese told The Times of Israel last February. “So it’s not about ideology. I think for me to go to the settlements right now would, in my view, agitate people, and I’m trying not to do that. Same thing: I try not to do things at the Western Wall that might agitate people.”
Asked to comment on Thursday’s visit, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Jerusalem said, “The ambassador visited all three victims’ families from the terror attacks in Ariel to sit shiva today. This is after nearly another 20 shiva visits/condolences for terror victims (not all of whom were Jewish) that he has done over the last few months.
“One of the three families for a shiva visit was in a settlement, he was not going to leave them out, but the shiva visit in no way signals a change in US policy toward settlements,” the spokesperson added.