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Strong views and ‘close to the boss’: How U.S. envoy to Israel reshaped a conflict

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Where was the U.S.-Israel relationship when Ambassador David Friedman took charge in early 2017? It was in crisis. It was unrecognizable. It was decimated after eight years of the anti-Israel Obama administration. When President Trump nominated David Friedman to become the U.S Ambassador to Israel, the Left went absolutely nuts. Watch the clips from Friedman’s confirmation hearing. It was wild.

However, despite never really working in the political sphere, David Friedman was the best U.S Ambassador to Israel ever. He helped accomplish what the “experts” called impossible. “There’s no going back on what we’ve been able to do,” Freidman said in an interview with the New York Times. Watch Friedman’s most recent speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2020. He hit it out of the park.

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Strong Views and ‘Close to the Boss’: How U.S. Envoy Reshaped a Conflict

By New York Times, January 11, 2021

JERUSALEM — Love him or hate him, and most people who have paid attention fall into one camp or the other, Ambassador David M. Friedman will complete his tour of duty in Israel this month having etched his name in history as one of America’s most influential envoys.

It was Mr. Friedman, 62, who drove the radical overhaul of White House policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dreaming up the seemingly endless list of political giveaways that President Trump bestowed upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters on the Israeli right.

“He set a very ambitious agenda,” said Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who oversaw the White House Middle East team. “Quite frankly, toward the end we were almost running out of things to accomplish, because David had gotten done so many things that were unthinkable.”

His opponents agreed. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, called him a “son of a dog” and refused to meet with him. Liberal Jewish groups accused him of trying to kill a two-state solution.

But casting aside any notion of evenhandedness freed the administration to move ahead with a raft of policies previous administrations had resisted.

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv broke with decades of American policy and, critics said, got no concessions from Israel in return. And that was only the beginning.

Mr. Friedman upended the established policy treating Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as impediments to peace, illegal and off-limits to American officials. He declared them part of Israel, assuring their residents that they would never face evacuation and that the United States no longer saw them as thieves of stolen land.

A donor to and strident advocate for the settlements in his prediplomatic life, Mr. Friedman made a point of visiting them and banished the term “occupied” from State Department documents.

“He normalized a lot of behavior and a lot of statements where we’ve really shifted U.S. policy,” Mr. Kushner said.

The White House cut Palestinians’ financial aid to zerotried to scuttle their refugee agency, denounced their leaders and ran their emissaries out of Washington.

The Trump peace plan, unveiled a year ago, adopted the Israeli government’s stance on nearly every major outstanding issue. The Israelis had to accept little more than the fact of a Palestinian state; the Palestinians had to swallow almost everything else.

 

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