Palestinians Wary of Trump's Israel Envoy Appointment

David Friedman's appointment as ambassador marks change in America's historic and strategic position toward Palestinians, official says.

Mahmoud Abbas at the Seventh Fatah Congress, November 30, 2016.
Abbas Momani, AFP

The Palestinian Authority has yet to formally respond to David Friedman's appointment as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, but officials in Ramallah say they aren’t surprised by it, given what they'd heard from a Palestinian delegation that recently met with President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that the appointment of Friedman, who supports the settlements and the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, constitutes a substantial change to America's historic and strategic position toward the Palestinians and the Israeli-Arab conflict. The appointment is a warning sign not only to the Palestinians, but to all Arab countries, and especially those allied with the U.S., he added.

The Palestinians' concerns are not only the result of Friedman's appointment, but are also based on the informal talks held by a Palestinian delegation and Trump's transition team. Following these talks, the Palestinians believe that Friedman, together with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, will lead the president's foreign policy on Israel and the Palestinians, leaving the PA in a difficult position.

"There's no doubt that the situation is complicated. In the meanwhile, it appears that the Israeli-Palestinian issue isn’t at the top of the agenda, and if it is, then it's positions that Kushner and Trump will try to push. These, for the Palestinians, can't lead to any agreement, but on the contrary," said a Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks.  

According to the official, the Palestinians also haven’t heard a clear position from the outgoing U.S. administration regarding any future vote at the UN Security Council or any framework to be presented by President Barack Obama before he leaves office. The only information they have is that Secretary of State John Kerry will take part in the international summit in Paris, if it convenes at the beginning of January, and that the administration will present there its positions on the conflict.

On Monday, an Arab League committee will convene in Cairo to discuss possible steps to be taken at the United Nations, including suggesting a resolution to the Security Council.