March 22, 2017

Mending the U.S. - Israel Relationship

  • After eight years of President Obama, there is much to remedy in the U.S. relationship with Israel.
  • To assist in that effort, the Senate should confirm David Friedman to be U.S. ambassador to Israel. He would be a forceful advocate for U.S. interests in the region.
  • Repair efforts would also include reassuring Israel that the Obama administration’s abandonment of Israel at the United Nations is no longer U.S. policy.

Obama’s Pièce de Résistance of Abandoning Israel at the U.n.

At the end of last year, President Obama was a lame-duck and clearly in legacy-definition mode. He secured his legacy of abandoning Israel by failing to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution focused on condemning Israeli settlement activity.

It has been consistent U.S. foreign policy spanning numerous administrations of both parties that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians must come about through direct negotiation between the parties – without interference from outsiders. That is why, when the Security Council attempts to poison the peace process with one-sided resolutions condemning Israel, the United States generally vetoes the efforts.

For example, in 2011, the United States vetoed a proposed resolution condemning Israeli construction activity in disputed land areas. As Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice explained at the time, the only way peace can come about is through “direct negotiations between the parties. There’s no short cut to that end ... because any time you have a one-sided resolution that is aimed at trying to adjudicate core issues that need to be resolved and can only be resolved between the two parties, you are, at worst, setting back and complicating the efforts to achieve peace.”

On December 23, 2016, the Security Council took up Resolution 2334, which Senator Dianne Feinstein described as “condemning Israeli settlements.” The Obama administration refused to protect our ally, abstaining in the vote.

At the beginning of this Congress, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 342-80 a resolution stating that the passage of the Security Council resolution “undermined the longstanding position of the United States to oppose and veto United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues ... reversing decades of bipartisan agreement.” A Senate resolution on the matter – S. Res. 6 – has 79 sponsors. President Trump must now carry forward this position and oppose any such U.N. action in the future.

Friedman nomination

On President Trump’s first day in office, he sent to the Senate the nomination of David Friedman to be U.S. ambassador to Israel. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing on February 16. On March 9, the committee reported the nomination favorably by a vote of 12-9. All ambassadors to Israel since William Caldwell Harrop in 1991 have been confirmed by voice vote or unanimous consent.

Mr. Friedman said in his opening statement to the Committee that if he is confirmed he will dedicate his mission to two things: “1) advancing the national interest of the United States in strengthening its relationship with Israel, and 2) working tirelessly to bring peace and stability to the region.”

When asked during that hearing if he understood his job “to be an advocate for the decisions made from the Oval Office and by this administration,” he confirmed that he would be “an advocate for the president in the same way that [he] would be an advocate for a client.” He said that his “personal views are completely subordinated to the views of the president and the secretary of state.”

Issue Tag: National Security