‘A Clinton presidency would be terrible for Israel’

August 5, 2016  

Despite pledges early in the primary season to maintain neutrality in dealings with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Donald Trump has since emphasized his pro-Israel bona fides and hinted at a major deviation from policies supported by presidents of both parties since the 1967 Six Day War, including the two-state solution, Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, and America’s embassy in Israel.

In an attempt to woo Jewish voters and supporters of Israel, Trump has relied heavily on proxies, including his daughter Ivanka, an Orthodox Jewish convert, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as campaign spokespeople and advisers.

On Thursday, David Friedman, a long-time Trump confidant highlighted the Republican nominee’s ardent support for Israel, adding that his general election opponent would be “terrible” for Israel, and had no love for the Jewish state.

Speaking with Yediot Ahronot, Friedman said the GOP nominee ‘trusts’ Israel, a subtle jab at incumbent President Barack Obama, whose feud with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu strained relations between the two allies over the past seven and a half years.

“Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing,” said Friedman. “Israel has now been independent for 70 years. They’re a grown up country. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.”

‘Clinton no friend of Israel’

Friedman added that much of the hostility between the White House and Israel was a result of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s push for a unilateral building freeze in Judea and Samaria, suggesting the Democratic nominee has a personal animus towards Israel.

“As soon as she became Secretary of State, the first thing she did was to embrace a unilateral settlement freeze. I think it completely poisoned the environment. I’m not aware of anything she did that is particularly good. I can name off the top of my head things that were nasty, like ripping up the letter from George Bush to Ariel Sharon, which I think was the only thing Israel got from evacuating Gaza.”

“I don’t think she particularly likes Israel. I think she likes the kind of elite left among the Jewish people of Israel and in America like the Max Blumenthals, the Sidney Blumenthals and the people of that ilk who would like to turn Israel into a sort of Singapore. I think she’s terrible for Israel.”

‘Trump won’t blindly embrace two-state solution’

With an unorthodox presidential campaign and policies that defy the political establishment of both parties, Trump also appears poised to drop a staple of US foreign policy towards Israel that has been accepted by both Republican and Democratic administrations alike – the two-state solution.

Labeling support for the two-state solution after a quarter century of failure “insanity”, Friedman said a Trump White House would have a more nuanced view of the issue, one with an eye for improving the quality of life for those in the region, rather than adherence to political dogma.

“[Trump’s] position is that he’s observed the obvious, which is that a two-state solution over the past generation has been attempted over and over again and has been a failure. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result—and he’s not insane. To blindly embrace a two-state solution because it’s been an American policy for the past 25 years is not something he’s going to do, any more so than one would have expected a president in the 1970s embrace the Vietnam war because it was a 20-year policy of the United States. Policies are only good if they work.”

“I don’t think this is an area which is susceptible to jingoism. It’s a very complex issue. The conventional wisdom is that Israel has to be a Jewish state or a democratic state, but can’t be both. It’s essentially a demographic assessment, which I think is wrong. With the removal of the Gazan population from the denominator, I think a one-state solution would reduce Israel from about 75 percent of a Jewish state to maybe about 65 percent. I don’t think it’s existential to do that. Ultimately, the issue is one of reducing tension and improving quality of life. That ought to be the first step, not the geography. The geography will follow if appropriate advances are made in quality of life.”

Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – The US Embassy in Israel

If questioning the basis of American support for the two-state solution is a novelty for an American presidential candidate, proposing to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem is not.

Multiple Republican nominees, including Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, all pledged to relocate America’s embassy.

Yet Bush, the sole Republican to win the White House over the past quarter century, failed to make good on his campaign promise. With Trump, Friedman claims, things will be different.

“I think one of his first acts is going be to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I think the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem is logistically something that can’t be done on the first day (but) I think that will happen in due course.”

Tougher line with Palestinian Authority

Aside from abandoning the reflexive support for a two-state solution that has animated American policy for decades, Friedman says Trump would also hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for its behavior.

“The message to Abbas is that you have a burden that you have to carry to be taken seriously as a potential nation-state. You haven’t met that burden yet. That includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, creating infrastructure where money and funds are handled in a non-corrupt manner.”

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