Netanyahu hails outgoing US envoy: ‘There was never a better ambassador’

David Friedman attends cabinet meeting during last week of posting; PM thanks him for American recognition of Jerusalem and Golan Heights, softened stance on settlements

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, 2nd left, participates in the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, January 17, 2021. (Maty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, 2nd left, participates in the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, January 17, 2021. (Maty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday thanked outgoing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for helping secure landmark changes in Washington’s policies toward the Jewish state, saying there has never been a better envoy for developing ties between the two nations.

Friedman attended the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, where Netanyahu listed the diplomat’s achievements while serving as envoy for the Trump administration. He will not continue as ambassador for the incoming Biden administration.

“There was never a better ambassador than David Friedman in establishing the deep ties between Israel and the US, in correcting the diplomatic injustices that were created over the years in global diplomacy regarding Israel,” Netanyahu said.

He said Friedman was active in bringing about US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel along with relocating its embassy to the city; the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; and the change in the US attitude regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Washington no longer sees as contravening international law.

Last Monday Friedman attended a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee where he reportedly told lawmakers that he opposes the reopening of a US consulate in Jerusalem, saying there is no need for it now that the embassy is located in the city.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at cornerstone laying ceremony for the new town Ramat Trump, named for US President Donald Trump in the Golan Heights, June 16, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Netanyahu also praised Friedman for working on the Trump administration peace plan which, he said, canceled the “Palestinian veto” on peace, enabling Israel to reach normalization agreements with four Arab states.

“This was a great effort that is good for the US relations, good for Israel and good for peace,” Netanyahu said. “For all these David, thank you very much.”

“We know the depth of your feeling for the American-Israel alliance, for the State of Israel, for Jerusalem,” he continued. “I thank you for not only your personal friendship but for your enormous contribution for prosperity, security and peace.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman delivers a speech during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Last Thursday, a senior Foreign Ministry official said that representatives in Biden’s staff notified Israeli officials that Biden intends to continue the normalization process that began under Trump and that over the past several months saw Israel reach agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Eliav Benjamin, head of the Arab world desk at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, made the remarks during a briefing for pro-Israel research institutes and advocacy groups, Walla reported.

“I don’t think the relations established between Israel and Arab states in recent months can be turned back,” he said.

Benjamin noted that the incoming administration will have a lot of other things to deal with “but we are in contact with Biden’s team and what we have heard is that they are in favor of the normalization process, that they are prepared to continue it and we will work with them on that.”

He also said that Israel is continuing contacts with other countries in North Africa and the Gulf to reach additional agreements. Benjamin said he expects more countries to come on board and that some are just waiting to see how the recent agreements with other countries pan out.

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