U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pushed for a change to the U.S. position on the legality of Israeli settlements early in the Trump administration, but former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposed the move. This according to Channel 13 News correspondent Barak Ravid.
Friedman, the key driver behind the major policy shift, raised the issue again when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came in. This time he got a “green light,” U.S. officials told Ravid.
State Department deliberations on the legal status of Israeli settlements lasted a year.
A special team was formed that consisted of Friedman and department lawyers led by the State Department’s then-chief legal advisor Jennifer Newstead, who is now the general counsel of Facebook. During that year, the U.S. team held consultations with several Israeli officials including Tal Becker, legal advisor for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Ravid quotes officials saying that while the White House received occasional updates, Pompeo and his team were given a free hand to draft the new policy.
About a month ago, the State Department’s legal team presented Pompeo with a 40-page legal position. Pompeo approved it and wanted to announce the new policy last Tuesday, but the escalation in Gaza led him to postpone the announcement.
Earlier this week, Friedman and other U.S. officials told the Israeli prime minister’s office they wanted to announce the new policy soon. They asked whether such an announcement would sabotage the Gaza ceasefire or lead to a Judea/Samaria flare-up.
The Israelis said they had no such concerns and pushed the U.S. to make the announcement. Friedman also briefed Benny Gantz, who did not object.