Transmitted below are two appreciations of bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel, one from HAARETZ columnist Gideon Levy and one from the HAARETZ Editorial Board.
Since American policy toward Israel/Palestine has been bankrupt for the past 50 years, there might be an argument for naming a bankruptcy expert as ambassador.
Just not this bankruptcy expert.
The U.S. Is Finally Out of the Closet
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
Dec 18, 2016
David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump's pick as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP via AP
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.
This innovation means an end to ridiculous statements of denunciation by the U.S. Department of State, at which Israel thumbed its nose. No more black diplomatic cars following the construction of every new balcony in the occupied territories. From now on, we have an ambassador who will feel the pain of the Amona outpost’s evacuation and take part in cornerstone-laying ceremonies in every new settlement.
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.
Friedman is anti-Israeli, like anyone else who urges Israel to deepen the occupation. Friedman is a racist, like anyone else who pushes for an apartheid state. He is also antidemocratic and McCarthyist (saying supporters of J Street are “far worse than kapos”) – and we have enough of those of our own. Friedman will spur them on, and in that, too, he is patently anti-Israeli.
But Friedman is not a registered member of far-right political party Tekuma, nor, as far as we know, of the anti-assimilationist Lehava movement. Friedman is about to become the representative of the U.S. government in Israel. He owes us answers to a number of questions – likewise the Senate, which must approve his appointment.
Do the U.S. government and the Senate understand the significance of the new envoy’s views? Do they understand that he is in favor of the establishment of an apartheid state supported and financed by the country that is the leader of the free world? Because anyone who, like Friedman, opposes the two-state solution supports the only alternative, which is one state and, in Friedman’s case, an apartheid state. Is that the way the United States, even Trump’s United States, wants to look?
The right-wing Israelis who support annexation – and there are many – can cloak their plan in thick fog that hides its true significance. But that is not the case for the representative of the most powerful country in the world.
The ambassador-designate owes us explanations. When you say annexation, what do you mean? When you contribute money to the settlement of Beit El, do you know that most of it is built on private lands stolen from the Palestinians? What will the Senate say about this partnership in crime on your part? What will be the fate of the original inhabitants of the occupied territories, who are the last remnant of their stolen land? If you say democracy and equality for all, in the spirit of the U.S. Constitution, we will then have a binational, egalitarian and just state – which, unfortunately, nearly all Israelis oppose.
This is not what you mean, though. Your annexation means perpetuating the status of the overlords and the dispossessed, a regime of separation that the enlightened world calls apartheid.
Your majesty, presumptive ambassador, you owe us answers. Those in Washington who sent you also owe us answers. Do you see the Palestinians as human beings with equal rights who are entitled to what the Jews in the Land of Israel are entitled to? Do you view your client state as one that acts justly? Do you view it as a state that follows international law? Do you think that by pushing it further in a nationalistic direction, you are doing it a favor? Does support for an apartheid state serve American interests? Does it reflect declared American values? In short, are you for us or for our adversaries?
Editorial Trump’s Israel Envoy Should Be Persona Non Grata
If the settlers had a state of their own in the West Bank, he might be suitable to serve as ambassador there.
Dec 18, 2016
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,” an expression that could incite violence against them. His worldview is simplistic and befits a propagandist and a preacher, not a diplomat.
All ambassadors are emissaries of the president. That’s why serving ambassadors submit their resignation when a new president is elected.
In fact many of them – one-third to two-thirds – are permanent members of the Foreign Service. Presidents and secretaries of state are careful to maintain a reasonable mix of professionals and political appointees; among the latter are contributors to the election campaign, party loyalists and others to be rewarded.
Although the ambassador’s importance has been reduced in an age of frequent meetings and direct communication among senior officials, it’s still best in key countries for ambassadors to be knowledgeable and experienced so they can best leverage their position for the people who sent them.
Friedman, according to his qualifications and statements, is not made of the stuff that produced outstanding ambassadors to Israel (Walworth Barbour, 1961-73; Samuel Lewis, 1977-85), nor does his background resemble that of the three Jewish U.S. ambassadors since the 1990s – Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer and Daniel Shapiro. He is one-dimensional and one-sided.
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.
Outgoing President Barack Obama advised Trump on Friday to derive his policies worldwide from a comprehensive worldview, including pitfalls, priorities and reciprocal relations. Friedman’s appointment shows that Trump does not accept this approach. He openly ignores aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, give jobs to those loyal to him and courts the minority of American Jewish extremists.
If Friedman’s appointment fails to pass in the Senate after close scrutiny of his background and a thorough hearing, that will be a blessing for Israel.