Trump administration has not demanded settlement freeze, new ambassador to Israel says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Trump administration has not demanded that Israel freeze settlements, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel said.

“We have no demand for a settlement freeze,” David Friedman told Israel Hayom in an interview published Wednesday.

Friedman also told the free daily, the largest circulation paper in Israel, that President Donald Trump has not outlined a specific peace plan.

“I am fairly confident that the president will not come to Israel with any particular plan or road map or with any specifics on peace,” said Friedman, noting the president’s visit next week.

“I think he has made it clear that what he really wants to see at the beginning is for the parties to meet with each other without preconditions and to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace. The United States is not going to impose upon the parties its views of how to live together. They are going to come up with that on their own.”

Friedman, who arrived in Israel on Monday, said Trump’s involvement in the peace process would be a “dramatic shift” from his predecessor, Barack Obama. He did not say whether the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a campaign pledge from which Trump has backed away.

“I know the president is working on this and is thinking about it,” said Friedman, who owns an apartment in Jerusalem and is heavily invested philanthropically in the settlement movement. “He is consulting with all the appropriate people … and he will make a decision. It is his decision, not mine, and I am going to let him make it. I am not shy about offering my opinion when asked, even when not asked. But my opinion is one of many. It is the president’s job to listen to all those opinions and do what is right for the U.S.”

Friedman also said there is no conflict between his American identity and his identity as an observant Jew.

“I was chosen because I have the trust and confidence of the president, because the president appreciates my commitment to the State of Israel,” Friedman told Israel Hayom.

Shortly after his arrival in Israel, Friedman visited the Western Wall. On Tuesday, he presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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