One of the most remarkable international events in recent history took place on Tuesday, September 15 at the White House. The signing of peace agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain strengthen relationships in the Middle East and opened the way for further economic and security arrangements with Arab countries.
Later that day, U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, spoke to Tony Perkins on Washington Watch and described the significance of these agreements and what they have accomplished.
"This is the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation in 26 years," Ambassador Friedman explained. "The last one was in 1994 with Jordan. Before that, it was 1978 with Egypt ... And now within a period of a month we have doubled the number of peace agreements ... You know this makes Israel safer, more secure, more prosperous. It opens up to Israel enormous opportunities for trade, for culture, for tourism."
The ambassador pointed out that while all the world's economies are under tremendous pressure, the agreements provide Israel with two trading partners of real consequence. This also comes at a time when Israel is trying to wean itself off of investment capital from China. He pointed out that trade with China is not in Israel's best interest nor in the best interests of the United States. Furthermore, there will be stronger security in these countries working together against their common enemy of Iran, as well as other radical Islamists in the region.
Mr. Friedman stressed that for 50 years, these countries have been enemies and haven't spoken to each other. "You couldn't make a phone call from Israel to the Emirates until the last week!" he pointed out. "It's a wonderful model, a wonderful template for the region. And we believe it will be followed by many other countries, all to the benefit of the region and I think especially to the benefit of Israel."
Tony raised a key question with Ambassador Friedman -- one which has been of great concern to both Jews and Christians. He asked, "Does this agreement in any form or fashion limit Israel's sovereignty over Judea and Samaria?"
"No, I don't believe it does," the ambassador explained. "Number one, until the Trump administration came around, the foreign policy of the United States -- Republican and Democratic administrations alike -- was that Jewish settlements, Jewish communities today in some areas were illegal. They were violative of international law. We reversed that policy. We reversed that legal analysis. Secretary Pompeo has concluded in a policy and legal statement that the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria do not violate international law. So that's something that we've done that no one had ever done before."
Friedman went on to say that the U.S. Peace to Prosperity plan contains a very critical component: "No Jewish community within Judea and Samaria would ever be evacuated again. There's no other administration that's taken that position or anything close to it."
To put that statement in context, in 2005 some 8,000 Israelis were evacuated from Gaza -- forcibly evicted by the Israeli government in a dramatic effort for peace.
"It was a disaster," Friedman said. "It almost caused a civil war within Israel. And it has resulted in terror attacks that have been almost unending, including today, including this very afternoon -- 13 Israelis were wounded from rocket attacks from Islamic Jihad coming out of Gaza! So Israel is not making that mistake again. We would never ask Israel to make that mistake again."
Friedman affirmed that the Jewish communities within Judea and Samaria, as long as Donald Trump is president, will never be asked to leave. "The Israeli flags that fly there today will fly there forever. And another point, which I think is important: there's been some suggestion that the ability of Israel to build within its communities in Judea and Samaria is somehow limited, that somehow there's a settlement freeze. Absolutely not!"
Ambassador Friedman made it clear that the Jewish communities within Israel will continue to be developed, and that the only change has been in the timing of the declaration of sovereignty, the timing under which Israel would make the political determination to apply its laws over the Jewish communities.
"That process has been slowed down," he clarified, "in order to pursue what we and all Israelis consider to be an enormous opportunity to make peace with these two countries and another five to ten more. But there is no obligation on the part of Israel...not to declare sovereignty. They'll work with the United States on timing."