Trump transition official: Friedman as envoy is clear message of change

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, is staunchly in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and building in Judea and Samaria.

December 20, 2016 07:36
3 minute read.
Becky Norton Dunlop

Becky Norton Dunlop, vice president of the Heritage Foundation and cabinet director in the Reagan administration. (photo credit: Courtesy)

US President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel sends a message to the world that “we are going to look at things anew,” Becky Norton Dunlop, a senior official in Trump’s transition team, said on Monday.

Dunlop, who is the deputy to Ed Feulner, the senior adviser on the Trump transition team for policy and personnel, pointed out that although it was very rare for presidents-elect to make ambassadorial nominations before inauguration, Trump has only named two: to Israel and China.

He did so, she said, “because both of those countries are on his radar screen as areas of great concern.”

Dunlop, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, is in Israel for three days taking part in the Jerusalem Leaders Summit, a gathering of conservative parliamentary and business leaders from Israel, India, the US and Europe.
David Friedman speaking to Israeli settler delegation.

She said that, while Friedman’s nomination will not “dictate the direction Trump” will go on moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem or building in the settlements, “an ambassadorship is a signal.”

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, is staunchly in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and building in Judea and Samaria.

Asked whether she agreed with Israeli politicians who said after Trump’s victory that the two-state solution was dead, Dunlop advised caution, saying that “no one should presuppose what the new president will come to think about these things.”

On the other hand, she said, there is reason for those on the Israeli Right to cheer because, had Hillary Clinton won the election, there would be no reason to believe she would re-think the country’s positions on the Mideast.

Trump, on the other hand, she predicted, will re-think the two-state paradigm.

“He is a man who thinks big, who knows he is a problem solver. I think he will re-think many of the current US foreign-policy pronouncements.

It doesn’t mean they will change, but that they will get a new look.”

As to whether Trump will change the long-standing US opposition to settlements, Dunlop, who served in Ronald Reagan’s administration, said: “I don’t think anyone – including me – can predict what Mr. Trump’s goal will be in regard to this. He is not a politician. He has not had a long history of making pronouncements about public policy, and I think he is re-looking everything.”

Dunlop said every cabinet appointment Trump has made has sent the message, “Don’t look at things the way we looked at it before, look at them in a new way. Come up with big ideas. I don’t think we know how he will end up after he has done his study and evaluation on this [the settlement issue], but I think the people of Israel who want a new day have a reason to be hopeful and optimistic.”

In addition to the settlements and a two-state solution, Dunlop also said Trump will likely take a fresh look at the Iran deal.

The Heritage Foundation has spoken on this issue very clearly, she said.

“We believe it is a treaty, you can call it a non-treaty, but that doesn’t make it so. It should be submitted to the Senate, and perhaps the new president will take that agreement to the Senate for a vote. And then we will have to see, once the Senate rejects it, how do you unravel this difficult situation [US President Barack] Obama has gotten the world into.”

Dunlop said Trump is being encouraged to take this move “by a number of people.”

Regarding the nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the next secretary of state, Dunlop admitted that she does not know where he stands on Mideast or Israel- related issues.

“But I do know this,” she said. “Donald J. Trump is the president-elect and he is appointing people not to have them carry out their policies, but because they will be effective in carrying out his policies.”

Dunlop said she believes Trump will have a “very good relationship” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I think he has more knowledge about Israel than some might suspect,” she said of Trump.

“I think that he and Netanyahu probably have a similar view of the world in terms of alliances, challenges and the situation in the Middle East. I also think they are both gregarious men – and gregarious men generally like each other.”

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