Trump’s Israel envoy Friedman: Israel should not rely on US sharing its Iran views

Former US ambassador says Jerusalem shouldn’t ‘trust in politics’ in standoff with Tehran, says sanctions would have worked if Trump stayed in office

Then-US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman speaks during a visit in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, in Gush Etzion, February 20, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Then-US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman speaks during a visit in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, in Gush Etzion, February 20, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that Israel should not rely on the US when it comes to Iran, as the nuclear talks falter and Israel more urgently sounds alarm bells about Tehran’s program.

“Right now, I think Israel should not rely on America having the same views that [Israel] has,” Friedman said in an interview broadcast Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 12.

“You have to trust yourself. You don’t trust in politics,” said Friedman, who served as former US president Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel.

Friedman said Trump did not want to go to war with Iran, and that his administration’s strategy against Iran was to crush the regime with sanctions.

“I think it would’ve worked had the Trump administration remained in office,” Friedman said.

He said the Iranian strategy by 2019 was to wait for the 2020 US election and hope for the best.

“Their view was, ‘If Biden wins, he’s anxious to get back into the deal, we’ll be ok,'” Friedman said. “They made a bet. Unfortunately, they won that bet.”

He refused to say whether the Trump administration had prepared for military action against Iran.

“All options were considered, and that’s about as far as I can go on that,” he said.

Friedman’s comments came as nuclear talks between Iran and world powers were set to resume in Vienna on Thursday, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew to Washington to meet with US leaders.

The US and European representatives to the nuclear talks expressed pessimism and frustration after negotiations last week. They said Iran was not serious about making progress in the talks, and had reneged on all previous agreements.

The next few days are likely to see a last-chance push for a diplomatic breakthrough, but significant progress seems unlikely.

A US official told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday that the US and Israel will discuss the possibility of holding military drills to prepare for a worst-case scenario attack against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The possible military drills would prepare for a scenario with Iran in which negotiations fail and US and Israeli leaders request a military strike, the official said, without providing further details.

The comment came as Gantz flew to Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ahead of takeoff for the US, Gantz said, “Iran is a threat to world peace and seeks to become an existential threat to Israel.”

“At the meetings, we will discuss possible courses of action to ensure that it stops its attempt to reach the nuclear arena and expand its activities in the region,” he said.

A Wednesday report said the Israel Defense Forces will hold a large-scale exercise over the Mediterranean in the spring with dozens of aircraft simulating a strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

Though Israeli officials have stressed that Israel could carry out a strike without coordinating with the United States, some analysts have cast doubts on the IDF’s ability to do so, as several Iranian facilities are buried deep enough underground that it would require particularly powerful munitions, which currently only the US possesses.

Reports in recent weeks have indicated that the army is unprepared for dealing with Iran and months or more away from an actionable plan.

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