Exclusive — U.S. Ambassador David Friedman: We Need to ‘Revisit’ Outdated West Bank Policies

Friedman seal (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty)
Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty

JERUSALEM, Israel — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman told Breitbart News on Tuesday in an exclusive interview that American policymakers needed to reflect on current policies toward Judea and Samaria.

Friedman spoke to Breitbart News on the terrace of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on the first anniversary of his taking office, and just one day after dedicating the new U.S. embassy in Israel’s capital city.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Joel B. Pollak, Ken Klukowski

“I am not the policymaker,” Friedman said. “I’ll leave that to others. But I certainly encourage the policymakers to engage in a conversation to make sure we have our policies right in the West Bank.

“I think those policies were set many years ago, and I’m not aware that they have been revisited. And yet the world has changed dramatically in that period.”

Friedman disagreed with the view expressed earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal by Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich, who argued that the U.S. “recognizes the city as unified” because the new embassy technically sits on land that was once a demilitarized zone between Israel and Jordan.

“We chose the building because it was the safest, most facilitative piece of real estate for what we are trying to do,” he said, suggesting that Kontorovich was “reading too much into it.”

In fact, President Trump explicitly declared in his video address at the embassy ceremony that current U.S. policy is to preserve the status quo while supporting the parties’ efforts to find a permanent, peaceful solution. Friedman emphasized that the president leads that policy effort, assisted by the Secretary of State and other senior officials, and with input from Congress. Friedman says his role is to implement that policy faithfully in whatever form the president decides.

However, he said, it might be time for American policymakers to re-think the way they approached land across the 1949 armistice line.

“I think the Israelis should do that as well — meaning they ought to think about the best way to create the best possible environment for Palestinians and Jews living on the West Bank,” Friedman said.

“This is a conflict that has been going on for far too long. I think that we have got to look at it with a fresh set of eyes — I don’t meant to be trite, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

“Let’s come up with a solution for 2018 that works for people living in 2018, and I think the Israelis should be encouraged to do the same thing.”

Friedman said that he had been on “personal visits” to “a couple of places” in Judea and Samaria.

“Security issues aside — and obviously, those are most important — I’d like to visit more there.”

He added that he had been invited by local Palestinians to visit and was keen to facilitate interactions on a “people-to-people” basis.

His meetings with Arab citizens of Israel, as well as Palestinians, had convinced him that both Jews and Arabs are “ready for peace and ready for a better life.”

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