By David Remnick / The New Yorker
December 16, 2016
When one read this morning in the paper that Friedman “has no experience in diplomacy,” one could only mutter, “No kidding.” But having no experience in a given field seems to be, in the Trumpian universe, the greatest of virtues. The contempt for experience (as a marker of “élitism”) is parallel to the contempt for science, for fact, for restraint, for consideration, for decency, for a sense of the past.
Every morning since November 9th, you wake up and read the news and think, This has got to be an issue of The Onion. Because, while so much of the media, in ways subtle and broad, attempts to normalize the Trump ascendancy, while we are told that patriotism demands that we accept Trump and “give him a chance,” the President-elect acts in ways that leave even dystopian satire behind. His behavior has little to do with conservatism or libertarianism or populism; his mode is recklessness, a self-admiring belief that unpredictability is the path to national salvation.
And so every day brings at least one fresh outrage: the appointment of a national-security adviser whose temperament resembles those of the unhinged generals in “Dr. Strangelove”; a keeper of the environment who denies the science of climate change; a chief strategist and senior counselor who ran a Web site laced with racist poison and bogus “news”; an Attorney General who regards the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive” and once referred to a subordinate as “boy.”
It seems almost sadistic to go on. It’s the holiday season, after all. Suffice it to say that the appointments, contrary to Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp,” comprise a reinvention of the swamp, a new, improved version of the swamp, in which the super-wealthy and the oil and gas industries are vested with singular authority. All of this is set against a background of brewing scandals, myriad conflicts of interest, the gleeful humiliation of longstanding foes, and a President-elect who refuses to show even a measure of curiosity about the possibility that Russian intelligence agencies meddled in a national election.
But, rather than fog the mind and defeat the spirit with the litany of accumulated outrages, let’s concentrate on the outrage of the day: the appointment of a bankruptcy lawyer named David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. Friedman writes regularly for Arutz Sheva, a pro-settler Web site that is available in English. After reading these columns, you might reasonably conclude that, if Israel decided it was in its interest to annex the West Bank, Friedman would heartily approve and help raise the flag. Ideologically, Friedman is to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu. His rhetoric, his viewpoints, and his prejudices are in sync with settler leaders in the government, and in the settlements themselves.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has been a crucial adviser to the campaign and the transition, and he and his family have an intense interest in Israeli affairs. Their politics on the issue are distinctly right-wing. Kushner’s family foundation has, according to Israeli media reports, donated tens of thousands of dollars to West Bank institutions, despite the fact that the State Department has long regarded the settlements there as a barrier to peace in the region. In 2013, for instance, the Kushner family foundation gave twenty thousand dollars to the Beit El Yeshiva, a school in a particularly hard-right settlement. Friedman is the president of a foundation that raises money for institutions in Beit El.