Israel has become a wedge issue due to progressive left - David Friedman

The former US ambassador to Israel said that he does not blame Trump for the Capitol riots that left five people dead and 140 injured.

David Friedman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
David Friedman
“Israel has become a wedge issue,” former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post.
He said that “there was not a place to land this issue in a way that would have great consensus” during the time he served as ambassador – from May 2017 to January 2021.
“Had we reached out to get more buy-in from the Left, we would have lost the support of the Right,” he told the Post, referring to what he considers some of the Trump administration’s greatest accomplishments: recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and changing the State Department’s legal analysis with regards to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Save $50 on registration with code JPOST
While there were Democrats who supported the State of Israel, the push against by the so-called progressive Left, had stirred this controversy around support for the Jewish state. Friedman said he wished that more of an effort was undertaken to break that wedge by finding common ground - between both sides of the aisle - for Israel support among all Americans. 
The Trump administration announced in November 2019 that it did not view Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington marked a historic reversal of US policy. 
“Bipartisanship is important,” Friedman said, “but it does not mean that you are looking for the lowest common denominator. If that is the price of bipartisanship then it probably isn't worth it.”
He said, “you cannot abandon principles to achieve great consensus” and “it is clear… that uniform support for Israel in the US is being challenged.”
Purchase tickets to hear David's next address - here's how >>
Save $50 on registration with code JPOST
But he said that the United States’ decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is one of the moves the Trump administration made that enjoys greater consensus. 
When former US president Donald Trump entered office, there had already been a law in place for more than 20 years - the Jerusalem Embassy Act - that had not been enforced but had passed in both houses of Congress by an overwhelming majority.
The 1995 act called on the administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy there. However, a clause in the law allowed for the president to waive the move if he deemed it detrimental to American national security interests. Each US president before Trump would waive the act, leaving the embassy in Tel Aviv. 
Friedman said that the overwhelming support in Congress for the act was a “clear statement of American will” that the people wanted to see Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the US embassy in that capital. 
He takes credit for making sure that the issue of moving the embassy was on the president’s desk – that it became an issue for him to be aware of and to care about. 
Save $50 on registration with code JPOST 
US President Joe Biden said that he will keep the embassy in the Holy City. The Jerusalem’s city council recently greenlighted the expansion of the embassy’s current location in what is known as “Old Arnona,” as well as the construction of a 10-story building as part of a larger compound in northern Arnona or Talpiot.
Why is Biden, who is expected to hold a more hardline stance on Israel, going to leave the embassy where it is?
“Moving the embassy is popular in the US,” Friedman contended. “When Trump would be campaigning or giving speeches, [going] to rallies all over the country from the heartland to the South to the coast, he would mention moving the embassy to Jerusalem and it would get the biggest applause of the night. It is incredibly popular.” 
He also said that despite what some might think, he does not believe that Biden will push for Israel to come back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians or make concessions.
“I don’t think anyone really thinks there is an opportunity today for there to be a peace agreement,” the former ambassador said. “The parties are extremely far apart… I don’t think anyone thinks that now is the right time to push for peace negotiations.”
But Friedman said he thinks that the Trump’s administration’s "Deal of the Century" peace plan will serve as the starting point for any future talks. 
“The plan maximizes Palestinian autonomy and their opportunity for propensity while minimizing the security risks of the State of Israel,” he told the Post
The peace proposal was almost unanimously rejected by the Palestinians. 
WANT MORE OF DAVID FRIEDMAN? The former ambassador will speak on March 14 at Tikvah Fund's 2021 online conference on Jews and conservatism. Get a $50 discount with code JPOST - click here
(Credit: Reuters)(Credit: Reuters)
“I think Trump is revered in the Middle East as one of the greatest leaders in history,” Friedman said. “I think he is beloved in the Middle East and was exactly the kind of president that resonates in the Middle East; this part of the world values actions [over words].”
He added that Trump “is not viewed that way in Europe and maybe not North America.”
But Friedman believes that with the passage of time, the president’s legacy will shift, and he will ultimately be remembered as “a pretty good president for the US” by the American people.
“He accomplished more in four years than many do over longer periods of time,” he said. Now, however, is a “very raw” moment in American politics, he said, exacerbated by rifts in society and the COVID-19 pandemic - tenseness among the American people that came to a head with the Capitol riots on January 6. 
Friedman said that he does not blame the former president for the event, which left five people dead and more than 140 injured. 
“I don’t believe he expected the riots to have occurred,” he said. “I think his rhetoric was too much and unhelpful and I wish he had not spoken the way that he did… But it is too much to accuse [Trump] of causing the riots.”
Save $50 on registration with code JPOST
(Credit: Reuters)(Credit: Reuters)
Friedman is currently splitting his time between Israel - where he owns an apartment in Jerusalem - New York and Florida, where he has close relatives. 
He spoke to the Post on the day that the Israeli government voted in favor of re-opening the airport, at least in a limited capacity, and said that he thinks such a move is “essential” for ensuring support for Israel from the Diaspora. 
“Travel to Israel is an essential component of support for Israel,” the former ambassador said. “There are some things you get coming here that are not replicable through Zoom, a computer or a book. It has been bad for Israel that airports are closed.”
What is next for Friedman? For now, he told the Post, he is working on a book. And, on March 14, he will address a crowd of pro-Israel Jews at the prestigious Jewish Leadership Conference. 
Don't miss out! Buy your ticket to the Jewish Leadership Conference today >> 
Save $50 on registration with code JPOST
This article is written in cooperation with Tikvah Fund.