David Friedman, Donald Trump's advisor of Israel affairs, visited Jerusalem this week and met with senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office.
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A senior official in Jerusalem said that parallel to Friedman's visit in Israel, one of Netanyahu's advisers went to the United States for meetings with advisers of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Friedman, a 57-year-old American Jew, has worked with Trump for 15 years, during which served as his lawyer. He specializes in real estate and bankruptcy, and represented the tycoon in legal battles over Trump's Atlantic City casinos. A few months ago, during the election campaign, Trump declared that Friedman, together with the legal adviser of the Trump concern, Jason Greenblatt, would serve as his advisers for Israel affairs. Various media reports in the United States and Israel mentioned Friedman as a leading candidate to be the American ambassador in Tel Aviv should Trump, the Republican nominee, win the U.S. presidential elections.
A senior official in Jerusalem, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity, remarked that several months ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set a clear policy by which Israel would maintain absolute balance in its contacts with representatives of the two presidential nominees. Netanyahu, who during the U.S. presidential elections in 2012 acted in a way that was perceived as him interfering politically on behalf of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and against the incumbent, President Barack Obama, he is interested in avoiding giving the slightest impression of interference.
"The prime minister's directive was clear – if we meet with one side we have to meet in parallel with the other side," said the senior Israeli official. "We track every few meetings to ensure there is no advantage to one side."
The senior official added that when Friedman sought a meeting with Netanyahu's advisers during his visit to Israel, he was given an immediate positive response. However, in parallel the PMO asked the Hillary Clinton campaign that same day to meet with her advisers. According to the senior official, one of Netanyahu's advisers left a few days ago for the United States to meet with the Democratic nominee's advisers while the meetings with Trump's adviser go on in Israel.
The senior Israeli official remarked that Friedman's meeting in the PMO dealt with a diplomatic-security briefing, during which Israel's positions on various issues were detailed. Two months ago, the prime minister's emissary, Yitzhak Molcho, held a round of similar briefings in the United States with senior officials in the Trump and Clinton campaigns. The main issue Molcho stressed in those briefings was Israel's opposition to any international move on the Israeli-Palestinian track in the United Nations Security Council, and that Jerusalem expected the United States to veto any proposals brought to a vote.
Friedman met in Israel with members of the Israeli chapter of Republicans Overseas, headed by Marc Zell. Friedman received in the meeting an overview of preparations by Zell's group to encourage American-Israelis to vote for Trump in the American consulate in Jerusalem and the Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv. Organization representatives say they believe that the majority of 300,000 eligible voters in Israel support Trump.
Friedman is not involved directly in the election campaign, but he is very close to the Republican candidate and has direct access to him. Friedman takes part mainly in issues related to Israel and the Middle East, and he was one of the people who worked with Trump on his speech at the AIPAC conference in Washington earlier this year.
Firedman is identified with the rightwing in Israel. He is involved in philanthropy in Israel, a large part of which relates to the West Bank settlements. He serves as president of the pro-settlement American Friends of Beit El, which in recent years has given millions of dollars to the settlement.
In an interview he gave to Haaretz in late June, Friedman predicted that if Trump would win he would support annexation of parts of the West Bank to Israel. He noted then that Trump is not expected to adopt the position by which a Palestinian state is in the national interest of the United States, which his two predecessors, Obama and George W. Bush, held. According to him, Trump is not worried by the prospect of a binational state.
"No one knows how many Palestinians live there anyway," he said then.