US will not strong-arm Israel in peace negotiations, Amb. Friedman says

Reassuring statements came from Ambassador David Friedman after Trump’s recent statement about Israel “paying a higher price” in peace talks.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an off-the-record call with the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress), US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman allegedly told Jewish leaders Wednesday that Israel will not be pressured for concessions if peace talks restart with the Palestinians – and there is no timetable for the presentation of the administration’s peace plan in any case.

‘No schedule for peace plan’

“There’s no schedule [for revealing President Trump’s peace plan],” Friedman told AJCongress, according to content curation service Jewish Insider, which covers American politics and business news from a Jewish angle.

“I would imagine that we will roll something out. I hesitate even to put a month on it because it has shifted as we continue to listen and talk to people. So it’s not imminent. There are some rumors that we might present something at the UN [General Assembly]. It’s not going to happen. We will release it. We’re just trying to think of when we think is the right time, garnered to get the most positive response and maybe make the most progress,” he reportedly said.

Friedman downplayed the significance of the president’s comments last week that because the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, Israel would have to pay “a higher price” in terms of concessions to the Palestinians.

“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’s something more that you could do?’

“It’s not that he has something specific in mind,, but just that under the circumstances that the United States has engaged in really significant good faith efforts to strengthen Israel and strengthen its historical, multi-thousand-year connection to Jerusalem, maybe the Israelis could make it clear by leaning in a little bit as well,” he told the conference-call participants, according to the report.

No trade-off was ever mentioned when the idea of moving the embassy was discussed, the envoy insisted.

“I was there when the [Jerusalem] decision was made. I was there watching it and advocating for it in real time. There is not and there never was any demand made of Israel that they do anything in exchange for the Embassy move,” he said.

Friedman echoes Bolton’s comments

Friedman’s comments echoed the reassurances made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton when he visited Jerusalem last week to discuss regional issues -principally Iran and Syria – with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I don’t think there’s any change in policy,” Bolton said. “I don’t think there’s any change in policy. I think the president looked at the recognition of Jerusalem as being Israel’s capital and the inevitable consequence of that – that the US embassy ought to be in the capital city of the country which is accredited as the right and natural thing to do, and it’s not an issue of quid pro quo.”

Currently, however, the peace plan is on the back burner. What the administration is concentrating on now, according to Friedman, is how to avert a crisis in the Gaza Strip so that Israel and Hamas do not go to war yet again.

Friedman also made mention of the president’s popularity in Israel after all he has already done for the Jewish state. “President Trump has the highest popularity rating in Israel of any country in the world,” he said. “You know, if his popularity rating were this high in the United States I don’t think the Democrats would even field a candidate [in 2020].”