Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman speaks at the Kohelet Forum Conference, at the Begin Heritage Center, in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2020.

I want to say up front, US Ambassador David Friedman to Israel is on our side, and there is no room to even doubt his personal allegiances and beliefs, but the full interview with Ambassador David Friedman was far worse than the teaser, and not good for Israel.

Furthermore, Ambassador Friedman made statements, that to best of my research, are not explicitly backed up by the peace plan’s documentation.

Advertisement



To begin with, I was absolutely shocked that Friedman actually pulled out the false Apartheid argument as a reason why Israel cannot annex the entire Judea and Samaria.

“Second, there is no way in the modern world that a country, especially a country as great as Israel, could possibly have a country with two classes of citizens, where one votes and the other doesn’t, it can’t be done.”

Friedman knows full well that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria run their own autonomous government (and a second one in Gaza) which they last voted in some 15 years ago, and the only reason they don’t have elections now is because their leaders won’t let them – and that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.

David Israel rightly pointed out that the US is an example of a (democratic) country in the modern world with different classes of citizens with different voting rights within its terrirtories. And I think it’s worth expanding on that point a bit.

1) According to Trump’s plan, the Arabs in the PA retain the same exact political status that they have now if they don’t agree to the plan’s terms. And the plan finds that acceptable. What happened to Friedman’s Apartheid warning?

2) Trump’s plan allows for Arabs in Jerusalem to retain their current political status (which many Jerusalem Arab have chosen to keep despite being given the option of obtaining full Israeli citizenship), which again creates and maintains an Israeli state with multiple classes of voting rights. Again, what happened to Friedman’s Apartheid fear?

3) I am hard-pressed to find any new political rights that the citizens of the PA will be gaining that they either don’t have now or can’t have right now, within the PA or Gaza, if only they made peace – other than their future state being allowed to make treaties with countries who are enemies of Israel.

So clearly, a democratic state with varying levels of voting rights within its territorial borders – like the US has, is not something to be scared of, is not something the plan is worried about, nor does it create an Apartheid state.

It’s absolutely shocking that he said that, and in light of the above, I hope he chooses to clarify what he meant.

My next major concern (even more than the concern above) is that it appears to me that Friedman has once again misrepresented Trump’s plan to the Israeli people, just like he did (inadvertently or not) when it was first introduced.

Right after the release, before Jared Kushner reined him in, Friedman enthusiastically described a slightly but crucially different vision of the peace plan’s implementation. That vision while hardly deviating from the plan, somehow minimized the downsides and risks to Israel.

“AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: No. No. Israel — Israel does not have to wait — does not have to wait at all. The waiting period would be the time it takes for them to obtain internal approvals and to obviously create the documentation, the calibration, the mapping that would enable us to evaluate and make sure it’s consistent with conceptual map.”

And now, in this interview, Friedman declares something which I cannot find in the plan (which I see he also declared back then too).

In the section of the Peace to Prosperity plan entitled, “CONDUCT DURING NEGOTIATIONS”, it explicitly and unequivocally declares an absolute settlement freeze for Israel in all the areas outside of those where sovereignty will be applied – which Friedman declares to be half of Area C. He doesn’t mention it, but perhaps this freeze also includes the parts around Jerusalem and the Negev that Israel is handing over (“swapping”) too. (That needs to be clarified.)

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL

In areas of the West Bank that are not contemplated by this Vision to be part of the State of Israel, Israel will not:
Build any new settlement towns, expand existing settlements or advance plans to build in those areas;
Expand any of the Israeli enclaves referred to in Section 4 or advance plans to expand those enclaves in those areas beyond their current footprint;
Demolish any structure existing as of the date of this Vision and secure the necessary legislative and/or legal decisions to ensure such an outcome. This moratorium does not preclude demolition of any illegal construction, where such construction was initiated following the release of this Vision. This moratorium does not apply to the demolition of any structure that poses a safety risk, as determined by the State of Israel, or punitive demolitions following acts of terrorism.
In Palestinian enclaves referred to in Section 4, the legal status quo will prevail and the State of Israel will enable the development of those Palestinian communities within their current footprint.”

I read the plan twice today (and readers, feel free to help me here), I can not find the text for an equivalent freeze for the PA in Area C, nor within PA enclaves (“bubbles”) within Israel’s territory.

Yet Friedman said in the interview,

“Category No. 2 is the half of Area C that will be reserved for the Palestinians [to be reserved for a Palestinian state for the allotted four years], and there will be no building there – from either side – Israelis or Palestinians.”

Nowhere does the plan say that the PA won’t be allowed to build there. Nowhere.

Perhaps Friedman is recalling something he wanted to be in the plan, or he interprets as being part of the plan, but wasn’t included in the text of the final release of the plan.

In fact, the only half reference I can find says the exact opposite, that Israel will “enable the development of those Palestinian communities within their current footprint.”

That’s the exact opposite of a freeze. It says they can and will build, and Israel needs to allow it.

As as I cautioned from Day One, this plan (which has some good points) completely relies on a friendly administration interpreting the details of the plan in our favor, and Jared quickly showed us what that would look like when it doesn’t.

What happens when the not-so-friendly US administration after Trump decides that the PA has now done enough to obtain recognition as a state, especially, now that Israel has already limited its own borders and accepted the idea?

And how come Friedman didn’t explicitly mention the Jordan Valley even once in the entire interview? I found that rather jarring.

Advertisement