Strong Views and ‘Close to the Boss’: How U.S. Envoy Reshaped a Conflict

Strong Views and ‘Close to the Boss’: How U.S. Envoy Reshaped a Conflict

Previous administrations, he said, had struggled merely to bring the Palestinians to the bargaining table. Waiting for the Palestinians to agree to talks before moving forward gave them a veto over the process, Mr. Friedman said, which only encouraged them to adopt unreasonable demands.

“A flood of refugees into Israel? Never going to happen,” he said. “Dividing Jerusalem? It’s just never going to happen. Israel giving up certain parts of its biblical heartland? Never going to happen.”

He said the White House had “injected a tremendously needed dose of realism into the Palestinian psyche about what’s achievable and what’s not.”

The Palestinians beg to differ.

Husam Zomlot, who headed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington until it was closed, said Mr. Friedman’s sense of his accomplishments was delusional. Far from enhancing American influence on the conflict, he said, Mr. Friedman had reduced it nearly to nil, all but destroying hopes for a two-state solution.

“He was the American mob in our Capitol,” he said, alluding to the recent insurrection in Washington. “Same logic, same behavior. That’s Friedman. And just as Congress did, the Biden administration will have to wipe the floor of U.S.-Palestinian relations and the peace process completely clean.”

Mr. Friedman asserted that the Trump peace plan, by setting requirements of financial transparency, human rights and other norms for the Palestinians to gain statehood, was actually “a gift to the Palestinian people” that would make their “quality of life far more bearable.” Israel’s warming relations with Arab states, he contended, would “open up the imagination of the Palestinians to what could be.”

He also insisted that the Trump administration never sought to aid Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election campaigns — though its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, to name one plum widely perceived as a campaign gift, came just two weeks before the first of those votes.

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