By Danielle Ziri, JPOST—
CLEVELAND – Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank could be viewed by a Trump administration as a legitimate way for Israel to move forward if the Palestinians continue to avoid a real and genuine peace deal, David Friedman, a senior advisor to Donald Trump, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Speaking as the Republican Party convention entered its second day in Cleveland, Friedman, who advises Trump on matters related to Israel, said that in his view, settlements in the West Bank were not illegal and were not the real impediment to peace with the Palestinians.
“The impediment to peace is very clear in both of our minds and that is the failure of the Palestinians to renounce hatred and renounce violence,” Friedman said. “Everything else is barely important.”
Friedman, a Manhattan-based attorney and president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions who serves as an Israel advisor to Trump alongside Jason Greenblatt, told the Post that in his view annexation of the settlements would be a legitimate way for Israel to move forward.
“If there is no agreement with the Palestinians, Israel has to move forward and maybe there is another path and a better path that is not a two-state solution and obviously under those circumstances that is certainly an option,” he said “I don’t know when or if that would be implemented but it’s certainly not a third rail in terms of options. It is certainly a legitimate possibility.”
Friedman went on to say that a one-state solution was also a viable option for ending the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“What I’m saying is a two-state solution is not the only solution. It’s failed in the past and I think it’s reasonable to consider any other alternatives people of good faith may propose,” he said. “A two-state solution might be a solution. It could work, but it’s not the only solution.”
The one-state idea was a viable solution, he said, since Israel was recognized as a protector of minority rights.
“So I think they have a wonderful track record to import into Judea and Samaria,” he said. “Second of all, the demographics with regard to the entire region are trending in a way that – according to the most credible demographic report – a one state solution would not deprive Israel of its Jewish character.”
According to Friedman, the best solution for the conflict is for the Palestinians to stop killing Israelis.
“The question is: Are people going to kill each other? And let me be clear – the Palestinians have to stop killing the Jews, because that’s where all this violence is initiating,” he said. “Do people have to keep trying? If you have a stomach ache, and you went to 10 different doctors and they all gave you the same medicine and after that you still have a sick stomach, you probably will start thinking about a different medicine or doctor, no?”
Under Trump, Friedman said, the Israeli-American alliance would look 180 degrees different than it has been for the past eight years under President Barack Obama.
“The first and most basic is the presumption on the part of president Trump that Israel actually knows what it is doing, and that Israel wants peace and the people of Israel desperately want peace,” he said. “I think we presume that they want peace and will know the best way to achieve peace and therefore there is no need to pressure them or impose any conditions on them or against their wishes, begin any summits, initiatives, conference that they are not ready for. That is the first major philosophical difference – Israel knows what is best for Israel.”
He said he was also confident that Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would develop a strong relationship.
“The relationship will be far different and better at the core because there’s going to be a high level of mutual respect,” he said.
“On our side of things – Trump has great respect for Bibi. He sees in Bibi all the things that were lacking in Obama…I think Bibi and Trump have a similar view of the world: The United States and – to a similar extent Israel – have to deal with their enemies from a position of strength. Obama deals from a position of weakness and apology, from a position of conceding whenever necessary. I think Trump recoils from that approach and I think Bibi is the same way. I think they would get along great. They have a very similar world view,” he added.