Donald Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is at it again. This time, in an interview with an Israeli Orthodox newspaper, he is threatening the Palestinians with regime change and indicating that the Trump Administration will not intercede to prevent the Israeli government from annexing parts of the West Bank.
In the special Passover interview with Shvi’i, Friedman was asked for a reaction to Mahmoud Abbas calling him a “son of a dog.” Friedman replied: “I am not offended by these words. I have an elephant’s skin.” He continued, “The main ones hurt by this foul language are the Palestinian people. The White House sent a message to Mahmoud Abbas: He must choose whether to go on using this rhetoric or to lock arms with us for the sake of people who need electricity, water, schools and medical services. Time does not stand still. If Abu Mazen does not want to sit and talk with us and Israel, we will find a different party to work with. It’s important to clarify. The vacuum will be filled. The Chairman of the PA is not irreplaceable in our eyes.”
Friedman was then asked whether he would support a partial annexation of the West Bank, in case Abbas refuses to negotiate. “On these issues, Israel ought to decide for itself,” he replied, “we will not intervene with the government in Jerusalem regarding its way of handling the conflict. We will definitely express our opinion when asked, but we’ll avoid unnecessary involvement in decision making.” Israeli annexation of occupied territory in the West Bank would violate international law (as do settlements, of which Friedman is a long-time supporter) and established US policy.
In the interview, Friedman also referred to Israel as “becoming the number one country in the world,” a curious statement for a representative of the US government.
Friedman’s new statements reaffirm the validity of APN’s Fire Friedman campaign. Friedman is a loose cannon, whose statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict routinely upend longstanding US foreign policy. Given Friedman’s advocacy on their behalf, it is not difficult to see why settler leaders see President Trump and his Middle East team as sent by God.
The suggestion that the US will seek an alternative to the Chairman of the PLO and the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, who in these capacities is the official Palestinian interlocutor of both Israel and the United States does not reflect US policy – or Israeli policy, for that matter.
Read the full interview with Friedman (Hebrew) here.