U.S. Envoy Says No Demands Expected of Israel for Embassy Move

David Friedman, the United States Ambassador to Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

 

“It was a good thing to have done because we took it off the table. Because every time there were peace talks, they never got past Jerusalem becoming the capital. So I said, let’s take it off the table. And you know what?” asked President Trump, rhetorically. “In the negotiation, Israel will have to pay a higher price, because they won a very big thing.” Trump added that the Palestinians “will get something very good, because it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens.”

These comments at a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia, on August 21 raised concerns in Israel that paying “a higher price” for the embassy move meant that he expected a quid pro quo for moving the U.S. embassy to Yerushalayim this past May.

In call with Jewish leaders, as reported by Times of Israel and Jewish Insider, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman insisted that the reference was not meant to signal that President Trump intended to demand special concessions.

“I was there when the [embassy relocation] decision was made,” Friedman said. “There is not and there never was any demand made of Israel that they do anything in exchange for the embassy move.”

Although there is “no schedule” for the presentation of the administration’s much-anticipated peace plan, and that it is “not imminent,” the U.S. continues to “listen and talk to people,” Friedman was reported to have said. While discussing the ongoing crisis in Gaza, he stated that the chance for agreement was “very low,” according to other reports about the call.

“The president feels that if the parties are lucky enough to be sitting in a room and making progress, he might say to the Israelis, ‘Look, can you do a little bit more? Look what we did for you. Is there something more that you could do?’ It’s not that he has something specific in mind.”

Because the United States engaged in significant efforts to strengthen Israel’s historical, multi-thousand-year connection to Yerushalayim, Ambassador Friedman suggested that “maybe the Israelis could make it clear by leaning in a little bit as well. That’s all it meant,” the political news site Jewish Insider wrote.