Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Ambassador David Friedman at the Israeli - Palestinian International Economic Forum in Jerusalem, February 21, 2019.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Army Radio on Wednesday morning that he regretted the absence of Palestinian Authority representatives from the conference in Bahrain. He also refused to retract his remarks about the partial annexation of Judea and Samaria by Israel

“The missing element is the Palestinian presence, and that’s a pity,” Friedman said about the Bahrain workshop led by the Trump administration with 49 international participants from the region and beyond.

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“It is unclear what their purpose is in boycotting the meeting, it is intended for them,” he said, adding, “No one asked them to give up their ambitions, we understand it, but that does not mean we’ll wait for them because it can take time.”

When asked if Israel should be concerned about the situation in the Persian Gulf, the ambassador replied (the text is an English translation from a transcript in Hebrew): “Israel should be worried about Iran and it will always be worried about Iran, we also agree with these concerns and we are working to counter the threats.”

Friedman said the trilateral meeting on Syria with the national security advisors from the US, Russia and Israel was helpful, despite the lack of agreement between the US and Russia.”

“The talks were helpful and Russia is also looking for solutions. Bahrain is also a step in that direction,” the ambassador said.

Friedman referred to the political aspects of Trump’s deal of the century, saying, “I do not think we coined that name, we’re not this arrogant.”

The ambassador is partially correct. According to France24, in November 2016, President-elect Trump told The Wall Street Journal that to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace would be “the ultimate deal.” Later, in April 2017, Trump met with Egyptian President al-Sisi, who supported his plan to find, as al-Sisi put it, “a solution to the issue of the century with the deal of the century.”

So, blame it on Egypt.

“We have a serious vision of what can happen,” Friedman told Army Radio. “We still need to see the timetable, and we will also talk to officials in Bahrain and the Israeli government, and then we will talk to the president.”

He stressed: “We need to consider how to prevent hostility on the part of the Palestinian leadership. We know what that looks like.”

Friedman was asked if he still believes in Israel’s right to annex territories in Judea and Samaria, and answered, “I stand behind my words 100 percent, I think that was the American policy in recent decades, I don’t understand how it was blown up. I have been following the conflict for a long time, and there was never any doubt that Israel would remain in some of the territories.”

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