OpinionMiddle East

Ambassador Friedman’s ‘New York Times’ interview reflects US interests

While the State Department establishment rejects U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s assessments, its abysmal track record in the Middle East indicates that it’s not the best judge of such matters.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton visit the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Aug. 21, 2018. Photo by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton visit the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Aug. 21, 2018. Photo by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s statements during his recent New York Times interview may have been inconsistent with the worldview of the U.S. State Department establishment, but they were quite consistent with Middle East reality and U.S. national security interests.

Friedman stated: “The absolute last thing the world needs is a failed Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan. … Israel retaining security control in the West Bank should not be an impediment. … Certainly, Israel is entitled to retain some portion of it [the West Bank]. … I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

While the State Department establishment (except for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton) rejects Friedman’s assessments, its own track record in the Middle East is abysmal. For example:

• During 1947-48, the State Department opposed the reestablishment of the Jewish state, contending that it would be a pro-Soviet entity, militarily overrun by the Arabs, while undermining U.S. ties with the Arabs. In 2019, Israel is the most effective, unconditional American ally, whose ties with all pro-U.S. Arab countries are unprecedented in scope, and expanding.

• In the 1950s, the State Department establishment considered the radical, pro-Soviet Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who attempted to topple every pro-U.S. Arab regime, a potential ally.

• From 1977 to 1979, the State Department betrayed the Shah of Iran, a critical U.S. ally, courting instead Ayatollah Khomeini, whom it considered a “warrior for democracy.” The United States thus allowed the creation of a megalomaniacal rogue regime in Tehran, intensifying regional and global Islamic terrorism, exacerbating regional instability and severely damaging America’s credibility among its allies.

• In July 1990, on the eve of Saddam Hussein’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, the State Department severely underestimated Saddam’s ruthless determination, providing a glaring green light to the invasion. A message was delivered to the Iraqi despot—who had been considered a potential ally since the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war—from Secretary Jim Baker via Ambassador April Glaspie: “The U.S. does not intend to take sides in what it perceives as an intra-Arab border dispute. … Washington has no opinion on the disagreement between Kuwait and Iraq … and does not intend to start an economic war against Iraq.”

• In 1993, the State Department joined the wishful-thinking party surrounding the Oslo Process and nominated PLO chairman Yasser Arafat—a documented arch-terrorist and hate educator—for a Nobel Peace Prize.

• The December 2010 eruption of the still-raging storm in the Arab world was welcomed by the State Department as an “Arab spring,” advancing the prospects of democracy. Millions of Arab refugees, nearly a million Arab fatalities and billions of dollars in damage testify to the severe detachment of the State Department from Middle East reality.

• In 2011, the United States joined its European allies in the toppling of the Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi—who in 2003 transferred his nuclear infrastructure to the United States and conducted a major military campaign against Islamic terrorists—which transformed Libya into the largest platform of anti-Western Islamic terrorism in Africa and beyond.

• In 2015, the State Department co-led the pro-ayatollah diplomatic orgy, yielding an agreement which expanded the ayatollahs’ global terrorism and subversion treasury in a monumental manner, bringing the ayatollahs’ machete closer to the neck of each pro-U.S. Arab regime, while (in the best-case-scenario) postponing the nuclearization of the ayatollahs by only 10 years.

In 2019, at variance with the State Department establishment (except for Pompeo and Bolton), Ambassador Friedman is advancing U.S. interests against the backdrop of Middle East reality, rather than indulging in the wishful thinking, even-handedness and moral equivalence (between inherent aggressors and intended victims) that have systematically failed, fueling radicalism, wars and terrorism.

In 2019, contrary to the State Department, Friedman recognizes the secondary/tertiary role of the Palestinian issue in feeding regional turbulence and shaping U.S.-Arab and Israel-Arab relations, as evidenced by the dominant regional developments (e.g., the threats of the ayatollahs, Sunni terrorism, inter- and intra-Arab upheavals) and the deepening ties between Israel and every pro-U.S. Arab country, all happening while there is no movement on the Palestinian issue.

Moreover, the ambassador is aware of the subversive and violent Palestinian track record in Egypt (early 1950s), Syria (1966), Jordan (1968-1970), Lebanon (1970-1982) and Kuwait (1990), which has been engraved in the Arab memory, hence the unbridgeable gap between the Arab walk and the Arab talk on the Palestinian issue.

In 2019, unlike the State Department Friedman realizes the destructive impact of a potential Palestinian state upon the inherently unstable, unpredictable, intolerant and violent Middle East; fueling Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and beyond; threatening the survival of the pro-U.S. Hashemite regime (and the devastating ripple effects into the Arabian Peninsula); undermining U.S. interests in the Middle East, while advancing the interests of Russia, China and possibly Iran, providing them with land, air and sea bases.

In 2019, in contradiction to the State Department, Ambassador Friedman is aware that Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria is a prerequisite for Israel’s effective posture of deterrence, which is perceived by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and additional pro-U.S. Arab regimes as the most effective life insurance policy in the face of clear, present and lethal threats posed by the ayatollahs, Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Furthermore, the ambassador is aware that Israel’s withdrawal from the mountain ridges would transform the Jewish state from a U.S. national security asset a national security liability, depriving the U.S. of a unique beachhead, the largest U.S. aircraft carrier with no American soldiers on board, and a most productive, battle-tested laboratory, producing for the U.S. an annual rate of return on its annual investment in Israel of several hundred percent.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This column was originally published at The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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