U.S. Ambassador to Israel at AIPAC: It's 'Blasphemous' to Suggest Israel Against Peace

David Friedman speaks to AIPAC for first time as ambassador, says U.S.-Israel relationship is 'better than ever'

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm

WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told AIPAC on Tuesday that it is blasphemous to suggest Israel is against peace.

Friedman criticized the distinction between being "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace," saying that people in Israel who don't support peace "simply do not exist." 

"If you support Israel, you must by definition support Israel living in peace with its neighbors," the ambassador said.

"It's no less than blasphemous to suggest that any Jew or Christian is against peace," he added. His words were seemingly an implict attack on left-wing Jewish groups such as J Street, which describe themselves as "pro Israel and pro peace."

"Everyone in Israel yearns for peace, and it is dangerously misleading to use phrases that suggest otherwise," Friedman noted.

"If there is no peace as we speak, I strongly suggest that we blame someone other than Israel for this," he said, to applause from the crowd.

Friedman noted that this was his first AIPAC speech since becoming ambassador to Israel, and that he is "so proud of what our administration had achieved in the last year with regards to Israel."

He described the past 12 months as "a year of firsts," mentioning that it included the first time the White House had hosted an event for Israel's Independence Day, and the first-ever visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

He also mentioned President Donald Trump's recognition last December of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

"Ten days ago, the State Department gave practical effect to the president's speech," he said, adding that the administration was now working to officially relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"We're working hard to get it done," Friedman added.

"Seventy years from Truman to Trump, how blessed we are to be here today," Friedman added. "The relationship with Israel has always been special and transcended politics, and it must continue to transcend politics. But I know you will forgive my pride if I do say that I think things are better than ever."

Friedman also noted there are "reasonable differences of opinion" on how to reach peace, but not on the necessity of achieving it.

"The entire Trump administration is committed to peace, all assigned to this sacred task, we are working on a plan – not the plan that's been described in 20 different ways by 20 different sources," he said."It's a real plan for peace, and we're not giving up."

Friedman called Trump "the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House," saying that "we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude."

The ambassador said that while "those who serve the president" come to their posts "with different backgrounds and opinions," they are all working together toward one goal.

"Israel keeps us safe, just as we hope to keep Israel safe in return," he added.

Friedman ended his speech by reading from Psalms – "The lord will give strength to his people, the lord will bless his people with peace" – and then stating that "we will have peace, but first we must be strong."

J Street released a statement in response to Friedman’s speech, saying it is not blasphemous – as Friedman had declared –  “to say that the settlement movement and its allies in the current US and Israeli administrations are not committed to peace.”

According to J Street, the refusal of “far-right voices” such as Friedman and other speakers at AIPAC “to support a coherent and viable path to peace is endangering Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”

“Based on the ambassador’s comments, it’s clear that these advocates for a one-state nightmare are now deeply worried about the growing movement of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans pushing back on their dangerous agenda. They should be,” the statement said.

“If Ambassador Friedman and his allies want to defend settlements, demonize Palestinians, oppose the two state-solution and still claim to support peace, that’s their right,” the statement continued, adding:

“Meanwhile, J Street will fight these policies. We will stand with the large majority of American Jews and with a growing number of lawmakers. We will continue working to actually promote peace and secure Israel’s future.”