TEL AVIV – The U.S. and Israel are in agreement when it comes to eliminating any Iranian military presence in Syria, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
Friedman insisted that the U.S. was “extraordinarily receptive” to Israel’s fears regarding Iran’s growing presence in Syria. Referring to a recent visit to Washington by a senior Israeli security delegation tasked with voicing Israel’s concerns on the matter, Friedman said that both sides were “of the same mind.”
“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.
He added, however, that there would be a number of elements in achieving “the right result” for Israel, including the U.S.’s relationship with Russia, the Assad regime and the Jordanians.
“I think that the Americans fully support the Israeli objectives,” he said.
He declined to say how these objectives could be reached.
Friedman also addressed the moribund negotiations with the Palestinians, saying that President Donald Trump was “trying very hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
The Trump administration instead aimed to handle the problem “from a forward-looking perspective, and we’re just trying to create something that would be a win-win for Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.
“If it is not good for both, it’s not going to get done, so we’re trying to find ways to make sure that each side looks at the opportunity versus the present and concludes that the opportunity is better than the present,” he added. “We’re very sensitive to all the things that go into the calculus, and we’re trying to find the right place where both sides can say, ‘We’re better off jumping into this pool than staying where we are.’”
Friedman slammed former president Barack Obama for allowing an anti-Israel resolution to be passed at the UN shortly before his term was up. Friedman called it an “absolute betrayal of Israel.”
Trump’s appointment of Friedman as ambassador was an immediate indicator that “America is going to be a better friend to Israel than it had been over the past eight years,” he said.
He also praised the president for his “phenomenal” relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the chemistry between the two leaders “is just excellent.”
“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.”
The ambassador was also asked to about Trump’s controversial response to the riots in Charlottesville. He insisted that the president roundly condemned the neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups “in the strongest terms on numerous occasions, and anyone who thinks the president is racist is either not paying attention or is willfully blind to the facts.”
Friedman added that the lesson from Charlottesville is that a group of neo-Nazis and white supremacists won simply “because the left-wing media is so obsessed with destroying the president that they are willing to elevate these fringe groups onto the front page day after day after day just to hurt the president.”
“That to me is astonishing,” he added.