Dear Ambassador Friedman, Farewell, I’m Not Shedding a Tear

Victor Harel
Victor Harel
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U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a conference in Jerusalem January 8, 2020.
Victor Harel
Victor Harel

To Mr. David Friedman, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, shalom:

I hope that you’ve already prepared the resignation letter that you’ll submit to the outgoing president, as all the U.S. ambassadors in the world are required to do, because parting from you isn’t causing me any sorrow. I’m not among the 70 percent of Israelis who according to the polls – which are apparently inaccurate – would like to see Donald Trump continue to serve as president. In my opinion you were the most political and least professional U.S. ambassador ever to serve here. You violated a glorious tradition of American ambassadors, all of whom – whether they were political appointments or came from the ranks of the State Department – respected the directives of all the articles of international law.

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The international Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations specifically forbids ambassadors and members of the diplomatic staff to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries where they serve. Israel joined the convention and ratified it in 1970. Article 41 (1) “Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.” And in fact, the Foreign Ministry Bureau for Personnel Training and Development devotes many hours to instructing the envoys who will serve abroad to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the country to which they are dispatched.

Whereas you, from your first day as ambassador, never ceased taking a stand regarding internal affairs, even those that are the subject of a bitter national dispute. This is with reference mainly to the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, or the occupied territories – depending on whom you ask. The fact that there are multiple descriptions clearly points to the depth of the dispute among us.

In doing so, you deliberately ignored the basic obligation imposed on you in the above-mentioned convention. In an interview with The New York Times (June 8, 2019), you said that “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some … of the West Bank.” Who gave you the right to determine the “rights” of a sovereign country such as ours? It’s as though a foreign ambassador serving in Spain were to publicly declare that “Catalonia has the right to secede from Spain and to declare its independence.”

You took an active part in innumerable events and ceremonies held in the territories, our control of which is still considered illegal according to international law and the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. This as opposed to an absolute majority of foreign ambassadors serving in Israel, who are very careful not to act in contradiction to the binding international directives.

You fully earned the title by which you came to be known: the settlers’ ambassador. You initiated the closing of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, which served mainly the Palestinian population. In doing so you interfered in another controversial subject in Israel – the debate about the two-state solution. There is a bitter – even violent – dispute between us and the Palestinian people, and among ourselves too, on the issue of the annexation and the status of the territories. Its solution will determine the future of our children and grandchildren. A foreign representative, as important as he may be, must refrain from elbowing his way into it.

For all these reasons, I’m saying to you, Ambassador Friedman, farewell, I’m not shedding a tear.

Victor Harel was Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Spain and the foreign service’s inspector general.

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