Jewish Storm Builds Over Friedman’s Appointment as Ambassador

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David Friedman with Donald Trump in Manhattan. (photo: Jerusalem Post)

By Nathan Guttman / Forward
December 16, 2016


“Everything an ambassador says and does has an impact on policy. The president hasn’t been sworn in yet, the Secretary of State hasn’t spoken about this, and he’s already talking about the policy he is going to change. This is unheard of.”
—Daniel Kurtzer, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel


President-Elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel is brewing into a Jewish battle royale for supporters and detractors of the two-state solution.

For the Jewish left, Friedman appointment has quickly emerged as a banner for rallying troops already concerned with the impact the Trump presidency will have on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the right, Trump’s choice of a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer as chief envoy to Israel is seen as ushering in a new era of settlement expansion and changing the fundamentals of American policy toward the conflict. Continue reading “Jewish Storm Builds Over Friedman’s Appointment as Ambassador”

Trump’s Daily Bankrupcy and the Ambassador to Israel

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David Friedman, named by Donald Trump as his Ambassador to Israel, is ideologically to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

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. Continue reading “Trump’s Daily Bankrupcy and the Ambassador to Israel”

The U.S. Is Finally Out of the Closet

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David M. Friedman, left, with Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

Following the appointment of a settlement-loving envoy, the pretense is over: the United States will no longer be able to claim that it is an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
December 18, 2016


This means the United States will no longer be able to claim that it is an honest broker. It never was one, but now the mask is off. In those terms, Friedman’s appointment is right and good. The Palestinians, Europeans and the rest of the world should know: America is for the occupation. No more pretense.


President-elect Donald Trump has decided to appoint an anti-Israeli and racist lawyer as ambassador to Israel. That is, of course, his prerogative. With David Friedman’s appointment last Thursday, the United States has finally come out of the closet. From now on, it officially supports the establishment of an Israeli apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Friedman is not the first Jewish ambassador to Israel — a matter that has always sparked questions of dual loyalty — but he is the first declared friend of the settlements in this position. His predecessor, Dan Shapiro, was also a friend of the settlements, like all the ambassadors before him — representatives of governments that could have stopped the settlement project but did not raise a finger to do so, and even financed it.

But now we have an ambassador who has also contributed to the dispossession from his own pocket. Continue reading “The U.S. Is Finally Out of the Closet”

Trump’s Envoy Should Be Persona Non Grata

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David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick as U.S. ambassador to Israel. (photo: Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP via AP)

If the settlers had a state of their own in the West Bank, he might be suitable to serve as ambassador there.

By Haaretz Editorial Board
December 18, 2016


If the settlers had a state of their own in the West Bank, he might be suitable to serve as ambassador there, and maybe not even that, because his basic identification must be with overall American interests. He must also understand the security and diplomatic interests of Israel in general, not just the settler tail that wags the dog.


Donald Trump’s transition team announced Thursday that the president-elect intends to appoint his close associate David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy cases, was one of Trump’s key campaign advisers.

More than anything, Friedman is an extreme right-winger and an avid supporter of the settlements and annexation to Israel of West Bank territories. He called members of the moderate organization J Street, whose positions many Israelis support, “worse than kapos [privileged prisoners in Nazi concentration camps],” an expression that could incite violence against them. His worldview is simplistic and befits a propagandist and a preacher, not a diplomat. Continue reading “Trump’s Envoy Should Be Persona Non Grata”

Friedman Is Hostile to Two-State Solution

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David M. Friedman, left, with Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

By Isabel Kershner and Sheryl Gay Stolberg / The New York Times
December 16, 2016


“He has made clear that he will appeal to a small minority of Israeli — and American — extremists, ignoring the majority of Israelis who continue to seek peace. Friedman’s appointment as ambassador runs directly contrary to Mr. Trump’s professed desire to make the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”


He is president of the American fund-raising arm for a yeshiva in a settlement deep in the West Bank headed by a militant rabbi who has called for Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlers.

He writes a column for a right-wing Israeli news site in which he has accused President Obama of “blatant anti-Semitism,” dismissed the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, likened a liberal American-Jewish group to “kapos” who cooperated with the Nazis, and said American Jewish leaders “failed” Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, David M. Friedman, an Orthodox Jewish bankruptcy lawyer from Long Island, is Donald J. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, despite his lack of diplomatic experience and frequent statements that flout decades of bipartisan American policy. Continue reading “Friedman Is Hostile to Two-State Solution”

Israel Needs to Decide Its Own Policy

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Tzipi Livni, a leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament, at a 2015 summit in London. (photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Q&A with former Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni

By Ruth Eglash and William Booth / The Washington Post
December 6, 2016


We need to understand what we all are facing. This is against foreigners and Jews. Anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head in different parts of the world. All together we should fight terrorism, fight anti-Semitism, fight xenophobia and fight for our values. This is what makes Israel part of the free world. Instead of saying workers of the world unite, moderates of the world should unite.


The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fretting over what President Obama may or may not do in the waning days of his administration.

Will Obama endorse a U.N. resolution enshrining a rough outline for what a two-state solution to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict should look like — regarding future borders, the fate of the Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem?

Or maybe Obama will give a speech.

Or send Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Paris to mull the “French initiative” to push for an end to Israel’s 50-year military occupation, a conference that appears to be stalled.

Or. Or. Or.

Continue reading “Israel Needs to Decide Its Own Policy”

Jared Kushner’s Foundation Donated to Settlements

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Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump, walks through the lobby of Trump Tower. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Carol Morello / The Washington Post
December 5, 2016


“I imagine this will be the end of State Department statements for 50 years calling settlements illegal to illegitimate, unhelpful or obstacles to peace. American foreign policy is about to be dramatically shifted. . . . It’s not about one check from Jared Kushner, but a broad threat to 50 years of bipartisan support for the proposition that settlements are an obstacle to peace. Now, that could be declared dead. I’m very alarmed.”
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street


Jared Kushner, who may become a Middle East peace envoy in his father-in-law’s administration, is a director of a family foundation that has made charitable donations to West Bank settlements.

The gifts totaled $58,500 between 2011 and 2013, a small portion of the almost $8.5 million the Seryl and Charles Kushner Family Foundation gave away in that period, according to IRS records first reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and reviewed independently by The Washington Post. Kushner and his three siblings are directors, along with their parents, of the foundation.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he may make his son-in-law, who is married to Ivanka Trump, a broker for talks between Israelis and Palestinians, saying Kushner would be “very good” at working with both sides.

Continue reading “Jared Kushner’s Foundation Donated to Settlements”

Now is the time to talk about . . .

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Photo: Livio Mancini / Redux

. . . What we are actually talking about.

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / The New Yorker
December 2, 2016


Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots.


America has always been aspirational to me. Even when I chafed at its hypocrisies, it somehow always seemed sure, a nation that knew what it was doing, refreshingly free of that anything-can-happen existential uncertainty so familiar to developing nations. But no longer. The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king. Things that were recently pushed to the corners of America’s political space — overt racism, glaring misogyny, anti-intellectualism — are once again creeping to the center.

Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.

Continue reading “Now is the time to talk about . . .”

Dark Clouds Over Palestine

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Deep divisions among the Palestinians are as damaging to their cause as the U.S.’s nauseating pandering to Israel

By Ramzy Baroud / Morning Star
November 24, 2016


Over his two terms, during which time thousands of innocent people — the vast majority of whom were Palestinians — were killed in Gaza and the West Bank, Obama purportedly worked to build a “middle ground.” However, the outcome of these policies were quite devastating — he sold Palestinians false hope while granting Israel most of its needs of military funding and technology and at the same time shielding it from international censure.


Fear and trepidation are slowly building up, as US president-elect Donald Trump is fortifying his transitional team with people capable of bringing about a nightmare scenario, not only for the US but for the rest of the world as well.

For Palestinians, however, the signs are even more ominous. From former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to Republican leader Newt Gingrich the Trump team is filling up with dishonorable men who have made careers out of pandering to Israeli interests while discounting Palestinian rights.

In 2011 Gingrich had claimed that Palestinians are “invented” people, while Giuliani — according to the Jewish News Service — “is fondly remembered in the Jewish community for expelling Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from a UN concert at the Lincoln Centre in 1995.”

Considering statements made by Trump last May, that the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank “should keep moving forward,” to more recent comments by Trump’s spokesperson in Israel, Jason Greenblatt, that the illegal land occupations are “not an obstacle to peace,” it is fairly certain that the Trump administration will be decidedly anti-Palestinian and anti-peace.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

Obama’s only Israel-Palestine option

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Photo: Miriam Alster / Flash90

When everyone believed Clinton was going to be the next president, Obama was rumored to be considering several last-minute options to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. All that went out the window on November 8.

By Noam Sheizaf / +972 Magazine
November 11, 2016


The old peace process is officially toast. The people who led it won’t be part of the next administration. The policies they pursued are the furthest possible from a Trump administration’s agenda — be it isolationist or neo-con/interventionist. A final push on parameters would be a waste of political capital, and might actually cause more harm than good.


The Obama administration is probably trying to figure out how to protect its two signature achievements — Obamacare and the Iranian nuclear deal — for the next two years, when the White House and both chambers of Congress will be under Republican control. But it will also need to revisit other issues, such as a widely discussed final move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Specifically, the idea of laying out parameters for a final status agreement — either in the form of a major policy speech or via a UN Security Council resolution — might seem out of touch with the new political reality in Washington.

It is extremely difficult to predict what Donald Trump’s actual policies will be — common wisdom is that a weak and poorly informed president depends on the people around and below him — but it’s a pretty safe guess that Trump won’t continue efforts to broker a final agreement on a two-state solution. The GOP removed the very idea of Palestinian statehood from its platform ahead of the elections. Those around Trump have taken positions in favor of West Bank settlements and against previous efforts to push the Israeli government towards a deal with the Palestinians. Others in the president-elect’s circle — probably including Trump himself — have strong isolationist tendencies.

All that should cause the outgoing Obama administration to change its calculations. Much of its thinking on a final push on the peace process was clearly predicated on the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. The idea was not that a major policy speech or a UN Security Council resolution on parameters would generate an immediately response on the ground. It might, however, have laid solid groundwork for future negotiations, all while creating options for the next administration that relieved it of the need to spend actual political capital on the issue.

[Continue reading here . . . ]