Report: New U.S. Ambassador Tells Israeli Officials President ‘Serious’ About a Deal

YERUSHALAYIM -
David Friedman at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is due to arrive in Israel on Monday, but he has been speaking to Israeli officials for months. And according to a report in Haaretz, Friedman’s message to Israel has been that U.S. President Donald Trump is serious about bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table.

The report quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that Friedman had told officials that President Trump expects Israel to “help” in achieving a diplomatic resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also recommended that the officials avoid confrontations with the president. This, despite the fact that Friedman’s personal views are substantially more right-wing than anyone else’s in the administration.

Not that Friedman hasn’t tried to impress upon President Trump the difficulty of achieving an agreement. According to the report, Friedman has discussed the matter extensively with the president, stressing that the chances of his making a breakthrough are very low. “Trump heard Friedman out and he also spoke to Friedman’s advisors, and others outside the White House, whose opinion he values,” the Israeli official said. “Many of them told him that the negotiations would be very difficult, perhaps impossible, but so far Trump has not changed his mind about trying.”

Last week, Haaretz quoted American businessman Ron Lauder, known to be close to President Trump, as saying that President Trump was “very determined” to reach an agreement on the Middle East. According to the report, Lauder spoke to several Israeli officials, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog, who were in New York for a conference. The report quoted one of the officials as saying that Lauder “didn’t go into a lot of detail, but made it clear that this really is a top priority for the president.” Things would become clearer, Lauder told the official, when the visit takes place.

An unnamed senior government official was quoted Thursday by Channel Ten as saying that from all the signals, it appears that President Trump is going to use the visit to make the “ultimate deal” he wants to seek between Israel and the Palestinians. “Trump appears determined to reach an agreement,” said the source, whom Channel Ten identified as a government minister. “We have no option to fight with him. If after eight years of disputes with the Obama administration we end up in the same situation with Trump, it will cause vast damage to Israel.” President Trump, said the source, is “uniquely unpredictable, and if Prime Minister Netanyahu tries to ‘smear’ him as he did with Obama, things will not go well.”