'You can’t normalize relations with a government that isn’t normal'

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman advises US and Saudi Arabia against going forward with prospective normalization agreement with Israel as long as far-right elements in power

Thomas Friedman, a senior columnist for The New York Times and confidant to U.S. President Joe Biden, urged the American leader and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to halt progress on a normalization agreement with Israel as long as there are far-right elements serving in its government.
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"Just say no," Friedman wrote in his column, arguing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would try and proceed with the deal "without having to give the Palestinians anything."
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Mohammed bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden
Mohammed bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden
Mohammed bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden
(Photo: EPA, AP)
The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist insisted Washington and Riyadh should demand concrete steps, including transferring parts of the West Bank's Israeli-administered Area C to the Palestinians, freezing construction of Israeli settlements and the approval of illegal outposts while underscoring that the ultimate goal of the deal is a two-state solution.
Friedman maintained that a firm stance on the conditions listed would lead to the collapse of the Netanyahu government and force Israel to choose between "annexation or normalization." "Do not let Netanyahu make you his useful idiots. You cannot have normalization with an Israeli government that is not normal," he added.
To illustrate his point that the Israeli government is "not normal," Friedman cited the meeting between the Israeli ambassador to Romania Reuven Azar, and the head of a right-wing party leader in the country, guided by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
Friedman gave a recent meeting between Israeli Ambassador to Romania Reuven Azar and the leader of the Romanian far-right party, which harbors antisemitic sentiments, as an example for his argument. This meeting was facilitated by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
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Thomas Friedman
(Photo: Michael Kremer)
According to Friedman, the government is controlled by "far-right Jewish supremacists." He also mentioned former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo's recent statement, saying "Someone took the Ku Klux Klan and brought it into the government."
Friedman further argued that U.S.-Israel relations for the past 75 years were based on the need to protect Israel from external threats from neighboring Arab states and Iran, whereas now the U.S. and the American Jewish community struggle to understand that the goal, according to Friedman, has changed: to save Israel from an internal, Israeli-Jewish threat manifested in the country's government.
Friedman added that Netanyahu is promoting the agreement while trying to "undermine the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to restrain his extreme government, while making himself a domestic hero by pulling off a peace deal with Saudi Arabia without having to give the Palestinians anything of significance, thereby advancing his coalition’s dream of annexing the West Bank."
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