By appointing a leader of the Israeli settlement project to be his ambassador to Israel, Trump signals a retreat from America’s role as “honest broker” in the region. It’s not hard to see who stands to benefit.
By Jay Michaelson / The Daily Beast
December 18, 2016
Ironically, the appointment of one of the leaders of the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank (ruled illegal by the International Criminal Court and opposed by every American administration since Nixon), and an extreme Jewish nationalist may, in the end, be a catastrophe for Israel.
David Friedman, Donald Trump’s close confidante and ambassador-designate to Israel, is not a right-winger. To be on the right wing implies that one is on a continuum from liberal to conservative. But Friedman — together with around 15% of the Israeli Jewish population — inhabits a different world entirely. His appointment would represent a total realignment of American policy in the Middle East, with the biggest winner being (surprise) Vladimir Putin.
The normal continuum runs as follows. The consensus of the international community, the Israeli government, and every American government for a generation is that that there must be a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. Of course, within that consensus, there are hawks and doves, right-wingers and left. Some are willing to take more risks for peace, some are more mistrustful of the people they call “the Arabs” and want any peace process to be slow and gradual. But all agree that it’s not feasible to create an apartheid regime in which 7 million Jews rule over 10 million non-Jews.
But in the world of Friedman, the Zionist Organization of America, the settler wing of the Israeli Right, and some parts of the American Jewish community, the path forward is one state — Israel — led by Jews, favoring Jews legally, and running from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It is an apartheid state, meaning a state wherein one population has civil rights that another does not; where one has freedom of movement and another does not; where one has the entire apparatus of the state in its control, and the other either cannot vote or is guaranteed a permanent minority.
In the 2015 Israeli election, parties holding this view — Jewish Home, Israel Our Home, and the Ultra-Orthodox bloc — won 16.8% of the vote. All three are part of the Likud-led government, but, so far at least, the Likud has maintained that such a future for Israel would be untenable, immoral, and impossible to maintain. So has AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and every American administration.
But Friedman is not simply one of those American Jews who supports the far-right Zionist Organization of America and thinks that J Street — a Zionist organization — is “worse than kapos.” He is one of that community’s most effective leaders. He is president of an organization that raised around $2 million annually for an extremist settlement in the West Bank, and president of an affiliated organization that runs one “Arutz Sheva” (Channel 7), the Breitbart.com of Israel.
This is what outside observers often miss: the Israeli Far Right is actually an American-Israeli Far Right, bought and paid for by the David Friedmans and Sheldon Adelsons of the world (Adelson also has a right-wing Israeli rag, but not as far-right as Friedman’s), undermining Israeli democracy far more than any left-wing NGO could dream of doing. The settlements and the entire nationalistic culture around them are built with American Jewish and Christian Zionist money.
Not only is this world ideologically separate from the normal right-to-left continuum, it is often factually separate as well, not unlike the American alt-right, where fake news is real and real news is fake.