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President of settler group who called left-wing Jews ‘kapos’ confirmed as US ambassador to Israel

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Yesterday the Senate confirmed the president of a settler financing group, who called left-wing Jews ‘kapos’ and accused Barack Obama of “blatant ani-Semitism” (on more than one occasion), as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

David Friedman, Donald Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer and head of the group American Friends of the Bet El Yeshiva, was approved by a narrow vote of 52-46 mostly along party lines. Only two Democrats voted for his nomination (Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Joe Manchin (WV), and Republican senators unanimously voted for him.

It was the first confirmation of any of Trump’s envoy picks, but arguably the most debated and controversial. Freidman has spoken against Palestinian statehood, fundraised nearly $2 million per year to benefit the Beit El Settlement outside of Ramallah, smeared liberal Jewish critics as Nazi collaborators–and then later defended this position–all of which was raised in his senate confirmation hearing in mid-February.

Yet in the hearing Friedman walked back his most offensive statements and expressed regret, although he has yet to apologize personally to J Street’s head Jeremy Ben-Ami for the kapo comment.

During Freidman’s hearing protesters interrupted him, a rare if unheard of scene erupted. Philip Weiss reported:

The most exciting part of the hearing were the first few minutes, as Friedman’s opening statement was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who were pulled out of the hearing room.

Here was the first disruption by a Palestinian man holding up a Palestinian flag and describing the fate of Palestinian refugees, including his grandfather, forced off his land.

Aside from Friedman’s ties to Israel and the settler movement, Mohamed Mohamed the Interim Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center in Washington, DC noted the envoy’s lack of experience. He called Friedman’s appointment “cronyism,” adding:

Of the 19 ambassador appointments to Israel since 1949, only four (three individuals – Martin Indyk served twice) have been political appointees. This pattern makes sense. As the chief belligerent in a highly sensitive conflict, Israel strongly qualifies as a “tough” assignment and therefore should be the responsibility of a professional diplomat.

Yet, even the three political appointees to Israel possessed some relevant experience for the job. For example, Daniel Shapiro and Martin Indyk both served on the U.S. National Security Council, which advises presidents on foreign policy matters. Frankly, the mere fact that they are Zionists poses a conflict of interest, but at the very least they have some kind of foreign affairs knowledge.

Unfortunately, David Friedman does not possess the professional qualifications needed to handle such a delicate diplomatic assignment. Even worse, he is ethically incompetent to be in such a position. His views regarding Palestine and Israel are dangerous, bigoted, and contradictory to U.S. policies on the issue.

The timing of Friedman’s confirmation comes a day after White House Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt wrapped a trip to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and Jordan. Both Greenblatt and Freidman advised Trump on Israel affairs during the campaign.

Reuters further noted an upcoming platform for the Trump administration to clarify its position on settlements now that Friedman’s position is official:

“Thursday’s vote meant that Trump will have an ambassador in place in time for next week’s annual conference in Washington of the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.”

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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4 Responses

  1. John O on March 24, 2017, 7:36 pm

    Is it over-optimistic of me to think that, the way Trump is headed, he’ll need to recall Friedman fairly soon to take up his previous occupation again?

  2. Bandolero on March 24, 2017, 9:03 pm

    A good match.

    I think Trump made a good choice because David Friedman is a good match for the Zionist settler state. He’s quite in the middle of the mainstream of how people think over there.

    I’m hopeful he’ll be better in revealing this than professional diplomats, as he will likely act a little bit more unconventional than professional diplomats trained to sweep differences under the carpet would manage to do it.

    It will be interesting to see the reaction of liberal Zionists when they find out that David Friedman is a good match for the mood in the Zionist settler state over there.

  3. JLewisDickerson on March 25, 2017, 12:13 am

    RE: “President of settler group who called left-wing Jews ‘kapos’ confirmed as US ambassador to Israel”

    MY COMMENT: I imagine Trump would love to add a prestigious Jerusalem property to his portfolio. Perhaps Friedman will hear of an owner willing to sell to Trump or perhaps pay Trump handsomely to use the Trump name.

    I can easily imagine a garishly lit Trump sign dominating the nighttime Jerusalem skyline. Might Jerusalem finally be ripe for the return of the “money changers” in the form of a Vegas-type casino? Will we see hordes of tourists wearing T-shirts emblazoned with: “I found religion playing the slots at Trump’s Jerusalem?”

    Stay tuned!

  4. Boomer on March 25, 2017, 6:39 am

    Another indication of U.S. policy is provided by a good article in WaPo, which begins:

    “The Trump administration is strongly condemning what it calls a systemic anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, arguing Friday that U.N. monitoring of West Bank settlement activity allowed by the Obama administration is the latest example.” (link to full article is below)

    This may be disappointing, even outrageous and contrary to fact, but isn’t surprising from the Trump administration.

    This morning I heard a discussion on BBC World Service about the high level of renewable energy used in Denmark. One person explained that the transition away from oil actually began way back in the 70’s, after the Arab oil embargo drove fuel prices higher. This got me to wondering why there was so little lasting response in the U.S. to that event.

    I was young, and living in Texas at the time, when the Internet was just a gleam in the eye of some DARPA engineers, so my exposure to world news was limited. I recall there being some animosity toward “the Arabs” expressed, but I don’t recall much in the way of substantive discussion about U.S. foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel. Maybe that happened and I wasn’t aware, or have forgotten. If so, perhaps others who know more can say something about it. But if the MSM and the U.S. government back then behaved like they do now, I suspect that the grievances of Palestinians, and the role of U.S. policy was largely ignored.

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