Truth and Consequences – Interview with Ambassador David Friedman | The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com | Ziona Greenwald, JD | 21 Adar II 5782 – March 24, 2022

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Ambassador Friedman in Jerusalem last week.

“I hope and pray that what we have achieved will continue.”

The title of “ambassador” is the one that usually follows America’s official representatives abroad long after they have left their post. For David Friedman, who served as US Ambassador to Israel under President Trump, the moniker remains more relevant than ever.

An Orthodox Jew, Friedman had a successful career as a bankruptcy lawyer and supported Israeli causes on both sides of the Green Line before being named ambassador. He continues to be a strong voice on Israel and world affairs who isn’t afraid to speak his mind (albeit more diplomatically than his former boss).

Friedman recently published a memoir of sorts, titled Sledgehammer: How breaking with the past brought peace to the Middle East (large format books). The Jewish press told him about his latest efforts and some of the pressing issues affecting America and Israel.

Your new book came out last month and so much has happened on the world stage in the weeks since. What do you think of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the US response?

It’s heartbreaking – and, sadly, it was avoidable. Putin took Crimea under the Obama administration and is now attacking the rest of Ukraine under Biden. Either way, he perceived a weak and incompetent US government that would not intervene meaningfully in the assault on Russia.

With Russia’s proxy, Syria, on its northern border, Israel is treading a delicate balance: sending tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and trying to be a mediator, while refusing to send military equipment. to Ukraine or to speak out too strongly against Russia. Is this a wise strategy? And is it fair?

Israel is doing its best to make the connection between offering appropriate, even significant, humanitarian aid and avoiding conflict with Russia, which controls Syrian airspace. In relation to the risks it faces, Israel is acting appropriately.

The Biden team has made no secret of its intention to re-enter the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, which Trump walked away from — an issue you identified as your primary concern when Biden took office. What seemed like a theoretical threat to some at the time is now more real than ever. How do you explain the willingness of Western leaders to knowingly allow Iran’s nuclear emancipation? Is this naivety or something more sinister?

Part of that is just reflexive anti-Trumpism, and part of that is the fact that nearly every Biden appointee on this file was architects of the JCPOA. [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, popularly known as the Iran deal]. Either way, the United States is making a huge mistake in moving forward with a deal that will inevitably lead to a nuclear Iran.

How dangerous is the Iran deal for Israel, with the threat of a nuclear attack on one side and the potential diplomatic fallout on the other if Israel rushes to destroy nuclear weapons facilities from Iran?

This is extremely dangerous, especially now that the United States under Biden is signaling that it will never confront a nuclear nation. When Biden promises that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, that strikes me as empty words.

You are rightly proud of the Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration during your tenure, which is the main focus of your book. Now, two years later, what is the status of relations between Israel and these friendlier Arab neighbors?

Relations are excellent and growing, in terms of security cooperation, commercial activity and, perhaps most importantly, people-to-people engagement. It is a very warm peace.

The Biden administration has turned 180 degrees away from Trump’s “peace to prosperity” approach to the Palestinians. It must be hard to see the work you’ve done basically abandoned. What was this experience like? To what extent do you see a lasting impact on the changes you have made on the ground, including moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

I hope and pray that what we have achieved will continue. The changes we made to US-Israeli policy were in the best interests of both nations and brought much peace and prosperity to the region.

From lawyer to diplomat to now venture capitalist – tell us about your new Israel-based investment firm and what you hope to achieve.

Liberty Strategic Capital is a new private equity fund led by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. I am delighted to be a partner of the fund and we work hard to identify and invest in opportunities in Israel and around the world.

Does this new venture mean that you will now spend more time in your house in Jerusalem?

We [Friedman and his wife Tammy] had always planned to spend several months a year in Jerusalem. We love Jerusalem!

More than a decade ago, Israel was dubbed the “start-up nation”, but in recent years it has lost ground to other countries like Estonia, Finland and South Korea, the number new startups that have fallen since 2016. What’s behind this decline, and how can Israel regain the upper hand?

From my perspective, Israel remains one of the preeminent places for breakthrough technologies that help make the world safer and healthier.

America is in the throes of a culture war, and the forces of “revivalism” have made major inroads in education, academia, sports, business, and more. But the decline seems to be increasing. Where is this conflict going? Could the pendulum possibly swing back the other way?

The movement has clearly already begun for parents to claim responsibility for raising their children, and for people rather than governments to be responsible for their personal choices. I expect the sentiments of this movement to be reflected in the next election cycle.

Unfortunately, Jews are being targeted, in many cases quite openly, across the United States. Is it related to the rise of far-left Democrats to power? Should American Jews be afraid for their future?

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism remains a major problem in America. Jews should be concerned but must stand up for their rights shamelessly and proudly. Anti-Semites are tyrants, you can only defeat them by confronting them and showing no fear.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many democratic countries engage in an unprecedented assault on individual freedoms. As a lawyer, does this concern you? What does it portend for the future of the “free world”?

I am concerned [that] those who call themselves the most liberal actually take the most repressive positions on freedom of speech and religion. In America, the end has never justified the means. Many in America have forgotten this lesson.

I keep in touch with many of my friends in government, including Jared Kushner and the president.

Any ideas on who we’ll see leading the Republican ticket in 2024? Could you ever be reinstated in the public service in some capacity?

I will not speculate on 2024. It has been my greatest honor to serve my country and I would be privileged to do so again.

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