Diplomatic Affairs: Marking two years since the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, David Friedman talks about annexation, the peace process and rapprochement in the Gulf.
If US President Donald Trump is reelected in November, David Friedman knows exactly which job he would like to take in the administration’s second term – the one he has now, ambassador to Israel.
After three years in the role, Friedman still feels that there is a lot left to be done to reinforce and strengthen the US-Israel relationship, starting with the Trump peace plan and bringing America’s allies in the region together to be allies with one another.
“We need to maximize mutual benefits of the relationship in ways I don’t think have happened before,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post this week. “The only limits are one’s imagination as to where we can go.”
The Post sat down with Friedman for a lengthy interview to mark the second anniversary of the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem in 2018, which the ambassador said has not only helped make peace possible but also highlighted an American value of making decisions based on what is just.
“We were applying a double standard to Israel, relative to every other country in the world,” he said. “We were telling Israel, you don’t have the right to choose your capital city.”
The failure of past US governments to implement legislation that mandated the embassy’s transfer was not only a disappointment to Israelis, he said, but also to many Americans “who support Israel and see that the US was treating Israel differently, applying double standards, and basically saying that until the Palestinians agree, you can’t choose what your capital is. And it’s not just any capital; it’s Jerusalem.”
Friedman said that the first conversation he had with Trump about moving the embassy was before he was elected president, and that he was on board from the beginning of his term, with some officials predicting that he was going to announce the move the same day as his inauguration on January 20, 2017.
That didn’t happen, Friedman said, because first conversations were needed in all of the different government offices – State Department, the Pentagon and more.
What did that achieve, though? we asked.
Other countries have not followed suit, and the Palestinians appear to be farther away from negotiating a peace deal than before. In the end, we said, critics will argue that it was just a symbolic move that didn’t really change anything on the ground.