Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo Ambassador David Friedman at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, March 21, 2019.

On January 29, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman followed President Donald Trump’s White House declaration of peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians with this precious ditty (Ambassador Friedman: Go Annex Those Settlements, What Are You Waiting For?):

“If the Israelis apply Israeli law to the settlements and to the territory that you’ll see soon enough is allocated to Israel under the plan […] then we will recognize Israeli sovereignty.”

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Compare and contrast – this is what Ambassador Friedman told Israel Hayom in an interview to be published in the newspaper’s weekend issue which marks two years since moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem (the following is a translation from Hebrew, so the exact quotes in this report may vary):

“The United States is ready to recognize in the coming weeks Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, if the Israeli government declares it, but conditions this on a freeze on construction in the parts of Area C which are to be transferred to the Palestinian state when it is established, and of course, on an advanced recognition of a Palestinian state.”

It’s almost the same, and, indeed, the ambassador last January mentioned all the parts about anticipating a future Palestinian state, but somehow his entire interview this week sounded like he was not nearly as joyous as before. Because, let’s face it, the Kushner-revised Trump plan is not so much a peace deal as it is a repackaged disengagement plan.

Friedman explained that there are several processes that need to be completed, which are mainly dependent on Israel, and made it clear that there would be no new conditions on the part of the US.

“When the mapping process is over, when the Israeli government agrees to freeze construction in those parts of Area C that are not intended for sovereignty, and when the prime minister agrees to negotiate with the Palestinians based on the Trump plan – and he agreed to this from day one – we will recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the areas that will become part of it according to the plan,” the ambassador said.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, October 24, 2018. / Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Friedman emphasized that “the most important element is that the Israeli government should be the one declaring sovereignty. It’s not us declaring sovereignty but Israel, and then we are ready to recognize it. But, as the Secretary of State has said, this is an Israeli decision from the start, so you have to be first [to declare sovereignty].”

Which suggests that the Trump 2-state peace team headed by presidential advisor Jared Kushner has a specific scenario in mind: first, Israel declares sovereignty over the settlement blocs and, possibly, some settlements which are on the “wrong” side of the Samaria hills, as well as the Jordan Valley; next, the United States responds to the end-of-the-world eruptions from all over the Arab world by saying that Israel has recognized a Palestinian state in all the areas it has not annexed, which comes to about 70%, plus some land carved out of 1949 Israel in compensation; and, finally, the Palestinians recognize what a good deal this is for them and acquiesce to reduce significantly the murders of Israeli civilians.

It’s a plan. It could even be a good plan if instead of Arabs, Israel’s neighbors were, say, Serbs, or Irish, who would be constitutionally capable of making sensible political decisions in an attempt to end centuries-long blood feuds.

Disregarding this sad fact of life, Ambassador Friedman stuck to his guns, stressing that “the condition is that the prime minister – and this is not someone specific but any Israeli prime minister – would agree to negotiate with the Palestinians, will invite them to meetings and negotiate with them openly and in good faith over four years.”

Which Prime Netanyahu has done, the ambassador concurred, saying “he has to keep doing it. As of now, the Palestinians don’t want to come to the table. If in two years they change their mind and agree, the prime minister will be obligated to hold the talks. It’s a set period of time, and we want this option to remain on the table for four years.”

Regarding the construction freeze in the isolated settlements in Area C, Ambassador Friedman explained: “The absolute majority of the settlements, about 400,000 people, will be living under the same construction rules that are enforced within the Green Line. About 10,000 to 15,000 of those who are under Israeli sovereignty will be unable to expand. However, it will be possible to expand upwards.”

So, get ready for Trump Tower Alon Moreh? 666 Yitzhar Avenue?

The ambassador added that places like Beit El and Hebron are the historic heart of Judea and Samaria, which Israeli leftwingers also don’t want to see being given away as part of a peace agreement. He noted: “It is clear to us that just as we Americans will never give up the Statue of Liberty, even though it’s a very small area, you won’t agree to give up those places.”

Which raises the question of which Israeli leftwingers has the ambassador met, and, even more important, what were they smoking at the time?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.