On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy attorney, as Ambassador to Israel.
Friedman, previously a Trump campaign adviser on Jewish world issues, has no diplomatic or government experience and holds far right views on Israel, even among the far right in Israel. In fact, his views are to the extreme right of conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Friedman opposes a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because he believes that the number of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, which currently stands at 6 million and expected to equal the number of Israelis by the end of 2017 — is exaggerated. In fact, he has referred to such a solution as “a suicidal ‘peace’ with hateful radical Islamists hell bent on Israel’s destruction.”
In Friedman’s opinion, American Jews who support a two state solution are worse than kapos — Jews who helped the Nazis run concentration camps in exchange for special privileges. In a May op-ed in the right wing Israeli publication Arutz Sheva, he spoke about J Street, the American pro-peace lobby:
“Finally, are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually is no. They are far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas — it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”
“There are always creative ways to allow people to live in peace,” Friedman told Haaretz in June. “It is not always about the land. We don’t accept the idea it is only about land. Nobody really knows how many Palestinians actually live there.” He added that President-elect Trump doesn’t see a Palestinian state as “an American imperative at all.”
To be sure, Trump’s extreme ignorance of foreign affairs and his putty-like malleability make him susceptible to the views of whoever he last speaks to on a subject. And if confirmed, when it comes to Israel, that person is likely to be largely Friedman and his circle.
Friedman does not believe that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land — which are considered illegal under international law — are an obstacle to peace. In fact, as president of the American Friends of Bet El, he is outwardly supportive of the Bet El settlement which was built on private Palestinian land without approval. His group has sent millions of dollars to the settlement in the past few years, with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law, donating at least $20,000 to the cause.
“A Trump administration will never pressure Israel into a two state solution or any other solution that is against the wishes of the Israeli people,” Friedman told a rally of Trump supporters in Jerusalem in October.
He has called President Obama an anti-Semite, though he reached the largest U.S. military aid deal with Israel in U.S. history. He is also a Putin sympathizer — a recurring theme when it comes to Trump. He has claimed that “Russia is going to defeat ISIS,” despite the fact that it is really not engaged in fighting the Islamic State, and has praised Russia’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Syria as proof that “Vladimir Putin gets it.”
He also wants to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a step that every U.S. administration has refrained from doing because the future of the disputed city is meant to be resolved as part of direct talks between the two sides.
The nomination of Friedman is a very bad sign for any possible peace accord.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of CitizenSlant