‘Dangerous’ to suggest Israel doesn’t want peace, US envoy says in J Street dig

‘Dangerous’ to suggest Israel doesn’t want peace, US envoy says in J Street dig

Ambassador David Friedman tells AIPAC 'we owe' Trump a debt of gratitude for shift in US-Israel ties

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Tuesday said that it was “dangerous” to say that Israel is not committed to Middle East peace, an apparent jab at left-wing groups.

“Saying that you are pro-Israel and pro-peace is disingenuous,” he told the America Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington, DC.

“Using that phrase suggests Israel is not pro-peace. Saying pro-Israel and pro-peace is a redundancy,” he told the crowd of 18,000 attendees. “If you support Israel, you support peace and it’s dangerous to suggest otherwise.”

“Peace is a core Israeli value and a core American value​,” he said.

The comments were seemingly a dig at dovish Israel lobby J Street, whose motto is “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” Before becoming ambassador, Friedman came under fire for calling the group’s leadership “kapos,” referring to Jews who were forced to collaborate with Nazis in the Holocaust. He later apologized for the remark.

In his AIPAC remarks, Friedman also praised the Trump administration for heralding a “fundamental change” in Israel-US relations.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “represents a fundamental shift, a sea change in the way American relates to its closest ally in the Middle East, Israel,” he said.

“We owe him a tremendous debt of attitude,” he said, apparently lumping himself in with the pro-Israel activists at the convention.

On Monday, Trump’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, also touted the administration’s stance toward Israel at the AIPAC Policy Conference.

In her remarks, Haley said Trump administration’s insistence on fair treatment for Israel at the UN is “actually a demand for peace.”

She said the UN’s bias against Israel, she said, has “long undermined peace by encouraging an illusion that Israel will simply go away.”

But Israel, she stressed, “is not going away. When the world recognizes that, then peace becomes possible” because all sides will then “be dealing with realities, not fantasies” and “reasonable negotiated compromises can prevail over absolutist demands,” she said in a speech met with thunderous applause and frequent standing ovations.

Speaking after Haley on Monday was US Vice President Mike Pence, who vowed that any future Israeli Palestinian peace deal brokered by Washington “will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel.”

US President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The annual pro-Israel confab was also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took the opportunity to again thank Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

In a meeting with Trump at the White House on Monday, Netanyahu told the US president the “bold” gesture would never be forgotten by the Jewish people.

“Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people throughout the ages. Others talked about it; you did it,” he told Trump.

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