Wall Street Journal Backs Trump on Friedman Pick, Says Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem ‘Won’t Hurt Chances for Peace’
Moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “won’t hurt the chances for peace,” the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial published on Tuesday.
Regarding the media backlash to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of attorney David Friedman to serve as the next American ambassador to Israel, the Wall Street Journal noted that the 57-year-old litigation and bankruptcy expert’s “main offense seems to be that he is unapologetically pro-Israel — a novelty after eight years of an Obama administration that has mistreated traditional US allies in the Middle East and Europe.”
When his nomination was announced last week, Friedman said in a statement, “I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem” — a reference to Trump’s campaign promise to relocate the embassy.
In anti-Friedman editorials published in the days that followed, the New York Times claimed that “such a highly charged symbolic gesture would anger Arabs and undermine peace efforts” and the Washington Post warned of “unexpected and dangerous fallout” from such a move.
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, countered, “If the location of an embassy is enough to block peace talks, then there must not be much of an underlying basis for peace.” Furthermore, the paper said, moving the embassy would “merely acknowledge the reality that Israel will never give up Jerusalem in any negotiated settlement. It might even help by sending a useful message to the Palestinians that their maximalist claims to Israeli territory are an obstacle to peace.”
At a Hanukkah party in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would “send a strong message against the delegitimization of Israel” and “be a great step forward to peace.”
As reported by The Algemeiner, the Friedman appointment has drawn praise from right-wing Jewish groups and dismay from the other side of the political spectrum.
In a pre-election interview with The Algemeiner in early November, Friedman said that a Trump administration would not expect Israel to uproot its citizens who now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as part of any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
“It is inconceivable there could be a mass evacuation on that magnitude, in the unlikely event that there was an otherwise comprehensive peace agreement,” Friedman said. “It makes no sense for Judea and Samaria to be ‘Judenrein [void of Jews],’ any more than it makes sense for Israel to be ‘Arabrein [void of Arabs].’ It’s not fair.”
This would mark a departure from the Obama administration, which criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, after he said, as reported by The Algemeiner, that the main obstacle to peace was the demand of Palestinian leaders for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews from the West Bank.
Friedman went on: “The critical thing is to recognize that there is not going to be any progress on a Palestinian state until the Palestinians renounce violence and accept Israel as a Jewish state. Until that happens, there is really nothing to talk about in terms of a political process.”
What a Trump administration would not do, Friedman said, “is put its finger on the scale and try to force Israel into a particular outcome, but rather will support Israel in reaching its own conclusion about how to best achieve peace with its neighbors.”
“We trust Israel,” he continued. “We think it is doing an excellent job of balancing its respect for human rights and its security needs in a very difficult neighborhood. Israel is a partner with the US in the global war against terrorism. And we want our partner to be attendant to that task and not distracted by foreign countries telling it what to do. That’s really the overall premise of the policy — to respect Israel as a partner, and not to unduly influence its decisions.”
Also, Friedman said, “The only thing that makes sense now is to take small steps to try to improve circumstances on the ground and provide encouragement and assistance to Palestinians who are not pursuing a hateful agenda.”