Former Secretary of State James Baker on Sunday warned that President-elect Donald Trump's new administration "cannot be Israel's lawyer" if it expects to successfully broker peace in the Arab/Israeli conflict.
In an interview aired Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Baker said he hopes Trump "will immerse himself" in the issue of peace in the Middle East because "it takes leadership at the very top of America's government if that's got any chance of succeeding."
"But you can't think you can succeed at that if you are in effect so biased one way or the other," he warned. "You cannot be Israel's lawyer and expect to solve the Palestinian/Israeli dispute… You have to be seen to be at least a semi-honest broker."
Baker said he doesn't know Trump's choice of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, but does not agree with annexing the West Bank or moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"But if he expects to solve this terribly difficult problem of Israeli/Arab conflict, he is going to have to be seen to be somewhat of an honest broker or it isn't going to happen.," he said of Friedman.
Baker also said the much-criticized abstention by the United States in a U.N. censure of Israel on its West Bank settlements was "very consistent with long standing U.S. policy."
"If you go back and look at a lot of the resolutions — in fact there was one in 1980 specifically on settlements in which the United States sustained, didn't veto," he pointed out. "This was not a break with long standing tradition. "
"The reason why I think settlements are a bad idea is they tend to create facts on the ground which make it hard to negotiate for that piece of land," he continued. "If you create facts on the ground there is nothing really left to discuss about trading land for peace."
Baker, who served as an adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said a two state-solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only solution.
"If we're talking about abandoning the two-state solution and leaving it, that's going to create serious problems for the United States, not just with respect to the Arab-Israeli dispute, but it's going to create serious problems for us more generally in the region as a whole," he said.
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