Ambassador-elect on US-Israel relations
ANT KATZ with Algemeiner
The Trump Transition Team made the announcement on their website today – see: US Ambassador to ‘work from Jerusalem’ which both Trump and Friedman consider the country’s capital. Congress mandated the moving of the embassy many years ago, but the nation’s security services have warned that such a move could endanger US facilities and personnel in the wider region.
Friedman is a founding partner of the legal firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and has worked for Trump’s property development empire for many years as a litigation and bankruptcy law expert.
He will replace Dan Shapiro, who has served as the US envoy to the Jewish state since 2011.
RIGHT: Donald Trump pictured with David Friedman in 2010. (Getty Images)
Friedman was one of Trump’s main advisers in the Jewish community during the campaign. In a pre-election interview with The Algemeiner, in early November, Friedman said that a Trump administration would not expect Israel to uproot its citizens who now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as part of any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
“It is inconceivable there could be a mass evacuation on that magnitude, in the unlikely event that there was an otherwise comprehensive peace agreement,” Friedman said.
Major departure from present administration
“It makes no sense for Judea and Samaria to be ‘Judenrein [void of Jews],’ any more than it makes sense for Israel to be ‘Arabrein [void of Arabs].’ It’s not fair,” said Friedman.
This marks a major departure from the Obama administration, which criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year after he said that the main obstacle to peace was the demand of Palestinian leaders for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews from the West Bank.
“The critical thing is to recognise that there is not going to be any progress on a Palestinian state until the Palestinians renounce violence and accept Israel as a Jewish state,” Friedman said.
“Until that happens, there is really nothing to talk about in terms of a political process.”
Friedman says the Trump administration will not “put its finger on the scale and try to force Israel into a particular outcome.” Rather, he said, they would support Israel “in reaching its own conclusion about how to best achieve peace with its neighbours”.
We trust Israel’s human rights record
“We trust Israel,” said the new ambassador-elect. “We think it is doing an excellent job of balancing its respect for human rights and its security needs in a very difficult neighbourhood (of the world).
“Israel is a partner with the US in the global war against terrorism. And we want our partner to be attendant to that task and not distracted by foreign countries telling it what to do,” said Friedman.
“That’s really the overall premise of the policy – to respect Israel as a partner, and not to unduly influence its decisions.”
Furthermore, Friedman said, “the only thing that makes sense now is to take small steps to try to improve circumstances on the ground and provide encouragement and assistance to Palestinians who are not pursuing a hateful agenda.”