JERUSALEM, Israel – Only one US ambassador in history, David Friedman, holds the distinction of serving in Israel's capital, Jerusalem. He now sits at the epicenter of a Middle East going through historic changes, a much-needed peace plan and unprecedented relations between the two allies.
CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell sat down with Ambassador Friedman to discuss a number of pressing issues in the region.
"The Trump administration is the most supportive administration in regards to Israel in American history, and I think that's helped Israel in direct ways," Friedman said.
Although a widely anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan remains shrouded in secrecy, Friedman explained one of its guiding principles.
"Nobody should be asked to take incremental security risks in pursuit of something that has yet to bear fruit so we're very cognizant of Israel's security needs."
US Ambassador David Friedman with CBN's Chris Mitchell, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Asked if the new regional alliances that seem to be emerging between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan and Israel are part of that calculation, Friedman says it's in the early stages.
"It's all opening up and I think it's just beginning. And I think that environment creates opportunity and it gives the Israeli public some confidence that they're not being asked to jump into an empty pool," he explained.
Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Another marker of the Trump administration is change. During his address at the start of the Jewish New Year, Ambassador Friedman talked about slaying some of the sacred cows of the peace process, such as defunding UNWRA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine), the so-called right of return and the Palestinian Authority's pay to slay policy.
"One of the aspects of the peace plan seems to be a relationship between Palestinian businessmen and Israeli businessmen. Some would say you crossed a red line when you crossed the green line into Ariel officially. What was the importance of that meeting?" Mitchell asked.
"On a practical level, I met with, I don't know, maybe 8 or 10 Palestinian business leaders and, to a person, they all said to me, 'let's do business, let's get going. We want to work with Jews; we want to work with Israelis,'" Friedman said.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Yet overshadowing any Middle East peace plan is Iran.
"Iran is THE danger … Iran right now is the leading international sponsor of terrorism," said Friedman, noting that the new sanctions against Iran will make a difference.
"They're extraordinary, and I think they are eventually going to put the Iranian government in a position where they can continue this endless malign activity or they won't, and the sanctions will continue and I believe ultimately their regime will fail," he said.
CBN News also talked about why evangelical support is so important to Israel.
"It strengthens the president's resolve to be the best president Israel has ever had," he responded.
An observant Jew, Friedman often sees his role through the lens of scripture. A painting in his office depicting the sin of the 10 spies from the Book of Numbers expresses how he hopes to serve as ambassador.
Painting reminds Ambassador Friedman what's essential for his work, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"I got this painting to remind me that one sin I hope not to commit while I'm here is the sin of the spies not to have faith, confidence and vision. Those are the qualities that really are essential for me to do my job the right way," he said.
And as a diplomat, Friedman sees God at work.
"I try to look at everything from a lens of what is best for the United States. That's my job. I represent the United States. But look, we are a nation under God; we're built on Judeo-Christian values. Much as I try I cannot help but see the majesty of God's work and all the miracles that happen in this incredible country," he said.
Watch more of Mitchell's interview on this week's Jerusalem Dateline, which you can find by going to the CBN News website.