David Friedman
David FriedmanFlash 90

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David Friedman, former US ambassador to Israel spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News in a special interview for Pesach. Friedman will be the Honorary Chairman of the upcoming Arutz Sheva Jerusalem Conference in New York, to be held along with the Celebrate Israel Parade on June 2nd.

Take us back to October 7th, what do you remember from that day?

“In the first couple of days, I was focused on two things - the loss of life and the hostages. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, and I was just overwhelmed. I had small grandchildren with me, and we were running in and out of shelters the first few days. They're asking me, why are people trying to kill us? They don't even know us. They don't know who we are. We've never done anything to them. Why are they trying to kill us? The answer was - like it’s been in other places - because we’re Jewish.”

What’s changed six months later?

“There has been some return to normalcy, but it's not the same. There's a huge, huge, huge trauma that has been inflicted on the country. It was the worst day in the history of the state of Israel.”

“The people of Israel are some of the most incredible people in the world. I've seen unity, the likes of which I've never seen in any country, and so desperately needed here. That doesn't take away the fact that there's a lot of sadness and a lot of trauma, a lot of unanswered questions. There'll be a reckoning for that, for those failures at some point. So, on the one hand, the Israeli people are some of the greatest people in the world and I'm so proud of them. On the other hand, there's a lot of trauma and still a lot of work to be done.”

What about Iran?

“I blame America for that. America, since we left office, has not enforced sanctions on Iran. They have provided them with tens of billions of dollars of sanctions relief, which they have used to spread terrorism and weaponry across the whole crescent of the Middle East to Iraq, to Syria, to Lebanon, to Gaza.”

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What are US politics like right now?

“Israel is fighting for its life and Biden is fighting for Michigan. He needs to show that he's not so pro-Israel, so he's disappointed many, many, many Jewish people. I think he's made a bad political calculation, but more importantly, I think he's just made a very immoral calculation."

The effect of what he's done is to embolden Hamas. It raises the price that they will impose for any return of hostages. It gives them more bargaining leverage. It does exactly the opposite of what I think Biden wants to accomplish, which is to end the war.”

“Biden has done nothing but make mistakes since he's been in office. He made a huge mistake in Afghanistan, in his relationship with Russia, with Iran, and now with Hamas and Hezbollah.”

If he had just said from the beginning to the Israelis, “This is your war. we're here to help you, but it's your war, go win the war. We trust you, do it as best you can, and you won't hear from us again” - that would have brought this war to a much faster conclusion.”

President Biden supported Israel at first. Were you surprised by the change?

“I'm an optimist and I try to see the best of people. In the first couple of days, I was complimentary publicly. My optimism was mistaken. We're in an election year, and this guy wants to get elected. The people that vote Democratic, some of them support Israel, but it's a shrinking percentage of the Democratic Party, and Biden is going to pursue politics over principle every day of the week.”

And the other Democrat leaders?

“We also heard Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris say that the US should separate between the Israeli people and the Israeli government. Chuck Schumer in particular, with his speech, has legitimized criticism of Israel from the rest of his party.”

“When the war is over, and God willing, Israel has a huge victory, there'll be time for politics. And then Israel, and only Israel, will decide who its leaders will be. Even people that despise Netanyahu don't think this is the right time to change governments, because you have to focus on winning the war. And Schumer knows that, but he doesn't care.”

What’s Israel to do?

“Israel has to do what's best for Israel. What I’m not clear on is the extent to which Israel needs things from America to win the war and what leverage and threats are being used against Israel. Israel needs to maintain a relationship with America and I think Netanyahu has been doing this a long time. I don't want to react emotionally and say Israel should just ignore America, because they may not have the luxury of doing that. They have to hang on until we get a better president.”

Would the situation have been different under Trump?

“Yes. We had a small example of this back in 2019, when Hamas started a rocket attack. That day, I went on Twitter, with the president's approval, and I said, “Israel should defeat its enemies as quickly and decisively as possible and we have full and unconditional American support, period.” Trump's been critical of Israel that they haven't won the war already. He was hoping for was an overwhelming response by Israel that would have ended the war faster. He wants a victory by Israel.”

Let’s talk about the day after the war.

“I'm very much against a Palestinian state and I would not create a Palestinian state to placate any country. I don't know anyone who's willing right now to come in and stabilize Gaza, which means that Israel may just be the one that has to stabilize it in the short run. If you said to me that over time, there might be a way to bring in the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Emiratis to come in and create a force to rehabilitate Gaza? Yeah, that could be a very good idea.”

“I don't think there's a quick fix to Gaza. I think it's going to take a little bit of time, even after there is, the war extends to Rafah. Besides the battalions still in Rafah, there are hundreds of terrorists from other, defeated battalions still alive, and significant sections of Hamas constructions and infrastructures that still exist. Stabilizing Gaza will take more than just invading Rafah. Let's hope that Israel is able to accomplish this and still maintain its diplomatic relations with the world.”

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Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria?

“It's the right time to talk about it. It's not an easy decision, so there needs to be a discussion and an analysis. I don't think Israel has the bandwidth to focus on this right now during a time of war, but when we get past the war, I think we need to retain the clarity that came from the war.”

“Palestinian sections of Judea and Samaria are largely radicalized. They are not in a position to live side by side with Israel in their own state. It'll be a platform for terror.”

“What we need to do on the one hand is to say to the Palestinians -you want to be in Palestinian land, go to Jordan. We actually would love it if you would say to us, look, how do we in Jenin and Ramallah work with you and find ways to do business together and become more profitable?”

“The Palestinians can live with certainty that they're not going to be evicted, that they're not going to be thrown out of their homes, that they'll have better opportunities, better prosperity, better human dignity, better health care, but they need to understand that the Jewish people are not leaving. I don't think we have to expel anybody from their homes or from their land as long as they live to agree to live in peace under Israeli sovereignty.”

Could the Palestinians do so on their own?

“Hopefully we get help from our friends in Saudi Arabia and in the Emirates and Bahrain and Morocco and elsewhere, where we explain to them, look, the solution is not to be separated. The solution is to live together in a way where people do better. We can make peace with Palestinians as long as that peace does not require us to give away our biblical homeland. They need to understand that there is a pathway forward, with help from some of our other countries that have money to spend to build better infrastructure. That's the only future. "

Are you headed back to the White House if Trump wins?

“He has to offer me a job. When I was ambassador, it was the honor of my life. I'd love to be able to go back and do it again. The particular job I get - that's up to the President, but I would love to do it again.”

Join us for the third annual Jerusalem conference in New York.

This year's conference will focus on 'The Victory of the Jewish Spirit' - as it will be emphasizing the courage and heroism of many - in Israel and around the world.

The conference will include on-stage interviews, speeches, special panels and of course the granting of special Jerusalem Prize awards.

The Jerusalem Prize awards will be granted to those who act for the sake of the people of Israel during these challenging days.

Leading Jewish organizations, Government ministers, Knesset members, activists, business officials and public figures will be participating as well as IDF reservists and members of bereaved families.

Join us this year, on June 2nd after the Celebrate Israel Parade, at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel.