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US Ambassador blames Obama for ‘absolute betrayal’ of Israel, and Palestinians for killing the peace process

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It’s not a big surprise, but Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, turns out to be the latest American lawyer for Israel. Friedman gave an interview to the Jerusalem Post and a two-word quote has become the headline round the world. Friedman, who has supported one of these illegal settlements himself, referred to the “alleged occupation.” The Guardian reports the outrage from Palestinians:

Demanding clarification from the US a Palestinian official said: “Our understanding is that when someone has an official position, like being an ambassador, this person does no longer speak in a personal capacity. Mr Friedman should realise that denying facts doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. He has an extensive record of attacks against the national rights of the Palestinian people, including funding illegal colonial-settlements and participating in celebrations of the Israeli occupation. We call upon the US administration to clarify their position.”

Here is the interview in the the Jerusalem Post, Friedman’s first sit-down.

Some highlights. Friedman is trying to watch his words:

“I don’t want to suggest that my views have really changed very much. Maybe the rhetoric has changed,” he told us.

“Obviously, you become a diplomat. You change your rhetoric. You have an official job. You work for the United States government. You respect the chain of command.”

Throughout the interview, Friedman puts the entire blame for the failure of the peace process on Palestinians, and frames the conflict from the Israeli point of view.

“As long as there is the culture of hate, as long as there is financing of terror, as long as there is the type of threats that existed and were created in the evacuation of Gaza, Israel can’t afford another failed experiment. It’s not a function, it’s just not a function of ideology. It’s a function of what can be done and what can’t be done…”

Here’s the throwaway reference to an “alleged occupation.”

“I think the American Jewish community tends to look at Israel somewhat myopically,” he said. The Right, he said, is portrayed as believing that peace is not possible. The Left, he explained, is portrayed as believing that only if the “alleged occupation” ended would Israel become a better society.

The Guardian checked the quote: “One of the two journalists who conducted the interview confirmed to the Guardian that Friedman had been accurately quoted. A US official insisted that Friedman’s comments did not mark a change in US policy.”

It’s hardly surprising that Friedman would pooh-pooh the occupation. Friedman was chairman of American Friends of Beit El, an illegal West Bank settlement.

US UN ambassador Samantha Power right after the UN Security Council vote against settlements last December

Friedman is scathing about the last act of the Obama administration: UN Security Council resolution 2334, which called the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law. The then-US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, abstained from the vote in December 2016, allowing the measure to pass 14-0-1. Friedman:

 “I thought it was an absolute betrayal of Israel by the Obama administration, as sharp a betrayal as any president I think has ever inflicted upon Israel. Of course, in the aftermath of that, the president wanted to signal a change, and I think that was well within his thinking when he appointed me to be the ambassador.”

The Post asks about the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump.

“Phenomenal. I think they have a lot in common.”

The Embassy will be moving.

Moving the embassy is a matter of “when,” not “if.” The debate inside the administration, he said, centers now around the timing. “It’s something we think about all the time,” he said.

The Israeli colonies in the West Bank are no obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state.

“If you listened to the Obama administration, you would think that the settlements had overtaken the West Bank,” he said. “It’s still under 2% of the territory. I am personally convinced that there’s nothing in the current status quo with regards to settlements that precludes the resolution of the Palestinian [issue].”

OK, settlements are a legitimate issue, “along with the other 20 areas of discussion.” But Palestinians are to blame for much bigger problems.

“[S]ettlements and terrorism do not belong in the same sentence,” he stressed. “Not the same paragraph, not the same report, because the killing of innocent life, of innocent civilian life, is so much more abhorrent and repugnant and inconsistent with a peace process than the building of apartments.”

Aaron David Miller famously said that Bill Clinton’s negotiating team at Camp David acted as “Israel’s lawyer” (and Clinton ran in favor of settlements). Everything we are learning about Trump’s team is it is worse on this score; and even the aged Palestinian leadership has expressed outrage at the bias.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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22 Responses

  1. John O on September 3, 2017, 12:30 pm

    ‘The Post asks about the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump.

    “Phenomenal. I think they have a lot in common.”’

    Well, he’s not wrong on that one.

  2. MalcolmLeftly on September 3, 2017, 11:21 pm

    I’m surprised it took this long. What Netanyahu has to worry about is hanging himself with the rope the Trump Adm. will provide.

  3. Qualtrough on September 4, 2017, 12:13 am

    A US ambassador to Israel with dual loyalties would actually be better than this guy, who apparently only has one.

  4. jackal on September 4, 2017, 2:15 am

    Right on, John O!
    And then there is another comment:
    The settlements are “still under 2% of the territory.”
    Of course, the fact that they are mostly located on the hill tops, making attacks on the Palestinian villages very easy with Israeli armed forces ignoring those.
    I also very much doubt the 2% figure. Looking at maps showing the settlements you get the impression that it is more than 50%.

    • Misterioso on September 4, 2017, 10:39 am

      The 2% excludes the illegally expanded borders of Jerusalem.

    • CigarGod on September 4, 2017, 10:42 am

      The Mobish Majority will hear 2% and nothing else.

    • John O on September 4, 2017, 11:51 am

      The 2% figure reminds me of the arguments we have here in the UK about new houses (we are desperately short of adequate housing) “concreting over” the countryside. It’s a scare tactic because housing/villages/towns/cities take up a remarkably small percentage of the total land area of the British Isles. Yes, you’ve guessed it – about 2 per cent.

      So, the 2% figure for settlements may be technically correct, if you define it narrowly as houses and gardens. The question is: who owns/controls the other 98% – the roads, the watercourses, the agricultural land, the natural resources, etc.

  5. TRG-42 on September 4, 2017, 10:26 am

    Peace, Palestinian state… it is all just sham, nothing to do with the real aims of Israel and it’s loyal servant, USA. The agenda is to expel (or kill) all Palestinians, and steal their property, everything else is just fake. Ignoring the fact that Palestinians are the indigenous canaanites, whom according to Jewish fairy tales both Moses and Joshua received from the Jewish ‘God’ orders to kill, every last of them.

    • CigarGod on September 4, 2017, 10:45 am

      Those who cry the largest crocodile tears while pounding the table get the money and get “elected.”

    • JosephA on September 4, 2017, 10:54 am

      I am of the strong belief that it is not the USA that is the servant of Israel, but quite the other way around. If the USA decided to pull the plug on aid to Israel, the Israelis would do nearly anything that our government wanted.

      I actually prefer having the racist David Friedman (supporter of illegal settlements) as the US Ambassador to Israel because it means our government can no longer pretend that they are neutral or unbiased.

      We are most definitely taking sides, and I am regularly amazed that the rest of the world sits idly by while the American government does this. Our tax dollars and our government support of Israel is the only thing keeping it afloat.

  6. Misterioso on September 4, 2017, 10:46 am

    I just received these two items:

    Please note:  Translated from Hebrew into English sub-titles, the language is extremely obscene.

    B’Tselem – Aug 29, 2017

    “On 24 August 2017, settlers from Kiryat Arba verbally abused Palestinians in the al-Hariqah neighborhood of Hebron on loudspeaker, including insults to Islam. When they noticed a B’Tselem volunteer filming them from her window, they directed racist and obscene language at her, including threats of extreme sexual violence. Although the threats were explicit and the swearing constituted severe sexual harassment, Israeli security forces at the scene allowed the settlers to continue undisturbed, as is usually the case.”

    “Report: Sara Netanyahu to be indicted within 10 days”
    Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2/17

  7. James Canning on September 4, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Will David Friedman kindly tell us what he thinks the borders of Palestine should be?

  8. catalan on September 4, 2017, 1:10 pm

    “Will David Friedman kindly tell us what he thinks the borders of Palestine should be?”
    He probably would say 1967 with agreed upon modifications. We may see that sooner rather than later provided that Gaza is liberated from Hamas. The final agreement will leave most people on both sides very unhappy.

  9. MHughes976 on September 4, 2017, 1:51 pm

    The settlements on their commanding heights symbolise the fact that Palestine is to be nowhere, in the sense that there is to be no genuinely sovereign power from river to sea except Israel. The borders will define administrative areas subject to the same power on different terms.

    • James Canning on September 4, 2017, 7:04 pm

      @MHughes976 Are you suggesting David Friedman opposes an independent Palestine (even if it lacked an army, navy or air force)?

      • MHughes976 on September 5, 2017, 5:51 am

        You frame the question to suggest that the term ‘independent’ applies to those deprived of all means of self defence, which in my usage it doesn’t. I am quite sure that Mr.F, from what we know of him, would regard any idea of a Palestine not in effective subjection in all important matters to Israel – for instance possessing even token means of self defence or freedom to form alliances – as morally wrong. That is what the symbolism of the settlement on it’d commanding height, clearly approved by F, conveys. No one has to use words my way, of course – if we are to call ‘independent’ those making choices that still exist even within such constraints, then maybe F would support independence of that kind, presumably within the borders mentioned by Catalan.

  10. James Canning on September 5, 2017, 4:17 pm

    @MHughes976 For the Palestinians, having control of land use, land ownership. etc., within its borders, would be of great importance. Nil chance Palestine would have military, etc etc.

    • echinococcus on September 5, 2017, 5:00 pm

      Nil? How so?
      I’ll give you that the chances of the Zionists obeying international law in part or fully is nil. But the elimination of the Zionist entity, practically certain after a loss of clout by the US, would certainly allow a Palestinian state.

    • MHughes976 on September 5, 2017, 5:43 pm

      Perhaps it would be of importance but I don’t think that they could in practice take any decision about land use and ownership, exploitation of natural resources etc. of which Israel did not approve. Perhaps ithis situation would be a significant improvement on the situation of now but I wouldn’t call it independence (you may say that my choice of words is not that important) or security of possession. The Roman term ‘libertas precaria’ might be useful.

  11. jsinton on September 5, 2017, 7:25 pm

    The pendulum will swing the other way. When the American public votes Trump out of office, the pendulum will swing back with a vengance. We’re looking either at a Sanders win, or maybe a Rand Paul type righty. Either spells doom for the Zionists, who’s influence has peaked. See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.

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