Ambassador Friedman: U.S., Israel on Same Page in Syria

YERUSHALAYIM -
American Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Following weeks of media reports to the effect that Israeli officials were having a difficult time making their case heard in Moscow and Washington about ceasefire arrangements in Syria, Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the U.S. and Israel are “of the same mind” when it comes to opposition to any Iranian military presence in Syria.

Friedman portrayed the U.S. as “extraordinarily receptive” to Israel’s concerns about security on its northern border as presented by a high-level delegation led by Mossad head Yossi Cohen in Washington two weeks ago.

“They’re obviously unanimously of the view that the vacuum created by the defeat of ISIS cannot result in the presence of Iranian military bases,” Friedman said, though how to get “the right result” remains to be worked out by the principals, including the Russians, Jordanians and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In the wide-ranging interview, Friedman commented on the peace process, saying that the Trump administration was “trying very hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

In a biting reference to the Obama administration, the ambassador charged that its decision to allow passage of the anti-settlement U.N. Security Resolution 2334 last December was an “absolute betrayal of Israel,” and as “sharp a betrayal” as any U.S. president has ever inflicted on the state of Israel.

By contrast, he had lavish praise for President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, who “has established extraordinary relationships among the Gulf states and other Sunni countries. I think those relationships are extremely important to this process.”

A key to progress in the region, Friedman said, was the “phenomenal” relationship between Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The chemistry between the two men “is just excellent,” said Friedman, who has participated in a number of meetings between them.

“It’s fun to be with them,” he said. “It’s not a formal meeting. They’re not on edge. They’re not sitting back in their chairs in a formal way. They’re kind of talking like a couple of friends, and it’s fun to be in the room with them, because the conversations are really pleasant. They’re funny. They’re cordial. As someone who cares so much about both countries, it’s great to see the leaders of both countries getting along so well.”