Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump and the Jews

Just as they had with Barack Obama Jewish Americans voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. In the end she won around 70% of their vote.

They felt vindicated when they saw Donald Trump offer an important White House job to Steve Bannon. Believing that the Nazis were coming, they rushed to the battlements. They had always suspected Trump had crypto-Nazi leanings. How else to explain the appointment of a representative of the alt-right?

Of course, they were fighting the last war. You remember it, the war against the real German Nazis. When hordes of Islamists are working day night trying to figure out how to take back Israel and how to kill Jews—in Europe, too—it takes a singular lack of courage to go to war against the Nazis.

Anyway, the same American Jews who despised Steve Bannon had no problem with putting Jeremiah Wright’s protégé in the White House. And today, let by Chuck Schumer, they would be happy to have Louis Farrakhan’s protégé heading the Democratic National Committee.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, indeed.

Yesterday, Donald Trump announced his new ambassador to Israel. He nominated a lawyer who was a close personal friend, a man by name of David Friedman. You will be hearing more about Friedman in weeks and months to come.

You see, Friedman is staunchly pro-Israeli. Apparently, this is completely unacceptable to liberal American Jews. He has even shown an antagonistic attitude toward Palestinians, and especially Palestinian terrorists. Many liberal Jews believes that this kind of attitude foments anti-Semitism. As though the Palestinians needed any encouragement on that front.

For his part Friedman does not accept the conventional diplomatic wisdom that the American embassy should remain in Tel Aviv until the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate an agreement about the status of Jerusalem. Since Trump—like several of his predecessors--pledged to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, the nomination of Friedman suggests that he meant what he said. His predecessors apparently did not.

The Friedman nomination also says that Trump will not offer an olive branch to the Palestinian movement… which ought really to be called a terrorist movement.

Where the Obama administration-- and previous American administrations--  had declared that the Israeli policy of building settlements in “occupied” territories was a primary obstacle to peace, David Friedman has said that he would support annexation and the building of settlements.

Uh, oh!

Friedman even had the audacity to suggest that if the New York Times had been as diligent in covering the Holocaust as it is covering the alt right, history might have turned out differently.

Surely, he was not being very diplomatic.

As for the Palestinian cause, a cause that has invaded America’s campuses in the person of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement, perhaps we should stop considering it a responsible negotiating partner. Perhaps it is time to stop legitimating the Palestinian cause? If Palestinians refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist, perhaps we should think about how best to defeat them.

Israel negotiates with and has developed good relations with Egypt and even with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. It has improved its diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey, Russia and China. Why should it be obliged to recognize a group that refuses to recognize its right to exist and that has put so much of its time and energy into trying to kill Jews?

Previous American administrations have treated the Palestinian Authority as valid negotiating partners, people who could be trusted to make a deal and to keep their word. But, what if they are not? What if they see their exalted status as proof that terrorism works?

Since the Palestinian territories are incubators for terrorism, it seems like a good idea to stop legitimating Hamas and its allies in the Palestinian Authority. One recalls that the Obama administration cut a deal with Iran that would give them access to nuclear weapons and then handed over hundreds of millions of dollars in cash… which cash would be used to fund Hamas and Hezbollah… thus, to kill Jews.

And they think that Donald Trump is kowtowing to anti-Semites?

Naturally, leftist American Jewish groups quickly denounced the appointment. The Wall Street Journal reported:

Liberal-leaning U.S. Jewish groups quickly lined up against the nomination. The lobbying group J Street said it “vehemently opposed” Mr. Friedman’s nomination and warned that he lacked any diplomatic or policy credentials and is “beyond the pale” of American views in the Middle East.

“This nomination is reckless, putting America’s reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president.

One does not recall J Street being similarly vehement about making concessions to terrorists. It saves its fire for anyone who supports the building of Israeli settlements. It would not be outrageous to suggest that J Street believes that Israel is largely at fault for the conflict with the Palestinians and can affect a peaceful solution by making more concessions. My own view, often expressed, is that Israel is the solution, not the problem in the region.

Besides, when did anyone's reputation suffer for supporting a friend, a representative of its values? Selling out your friends in favor of gauzy ideals does nothing for your reputation.

Of course, Friedman has not kept his own reservations about J Street to himself. Using language that is intemperate and undiplomatic, he denounced them. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Friedman has made clear his disdain for those American Jews — especially those connected to J Street — who support a two-state solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians. Writing in June on the website of Arutz Sheva, an Israeli media organization, Mr. Friedman compared J Street supporters to “kapos,” the Jews who cooperated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty,” he wrote. “But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas — it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”

One suspects that within a couple of days Friedman will take back these words.

Of course, the current American policy toward Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been in play for decades now. What exactly has it accomplished? Perhaps it is time to turn the page and to get tougher with one of the world premier terrorist organizations. Perhaps it is time to stop thinking that the main obstacle to peace is Israel and to stop calling on Israel to make concessions to terrorism.

The new strategy might not work, but it has not been tried before.

Besides, Israel’s diplomatic outreach has left it in a far stronger position in the region.

The Guardian has the Friedman  story this morning:

Yossi Dagan, a prominent Israeli settler leader and friend of Friedman, welcomed the news, describing him as “a true friend and partner of the state of Israel and the settlements”. Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said Friedman had “the potential to be the greatest US ambassador to Israel ever”.

An indication of how Friedman views Israel came in a 16-point action plan he issued with another Trump adviser in November. It included “ensur[ing] that Israel receives maximum military, strategic and tactical cooperation from the United States” and a declaration of war on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and pro-Palestinian campus activism.

So, Trump has nominated an Israeli ambassador who is unabashedly pro-Israeli. Those who prefer a policy of appeasement toward Palestinian terrorism are appalled and outraged. To be sure, Friedman has given them cause for concern.

And yet, people who stood silent when Barack Obama sold out to Iran do not have the best moral credentials for opposing Friedman. On what grounds: that he is too pro-Israeli?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ares Olympus said...

I see Vox has an article too.
On Thursday, Donald Trump announced his pick for ambassador to Israel: a bankruptcy lawyer named David Friedman. Friedman, who has been a personal friend of Trump’s for about 15 years, has no government experience to speak of.

What Friedman does have is opinions — specifically, what appears to be the most hard-right approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of any US ambassador to Israel in history.

So Friedman openly sides against longstanding American policy towards Israel, insults Jews who disagree with him in some of the most offensive terms possible, and has zero formal diplomatic experience.

It's still hard to imagine a more destabilizing pick for one of the most sensitive diplomatic posts in the world.

The US government has held, since the Reagan administration, that the settlement project is illegitimate and a threat to prospects for peace with the Palestinians. This has been consistent, under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Friedman’s position — settlements are actually great — would radically transform America’s position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from a third party aiming to broker peace to a backer of the most maximalist factions of Israel’s government.

Nor does this exhaust Friedman’s hard-line views.

Appointing Friedman, then, is a signal that the Trump administration could attempt to undertake the most radical transformation of US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in history.

The question now is: Even if Trump and Tillerson don’t embrace Friedman’s approach to the conflict, how much damage can Friedman do on his own?

Given the extreme sensitivity of Israeli-Palestinian issues — a single off-color statement from an important policy official can result in bloodshed — it may not be a risk worth taking.

I suppose the next best thing to electing an experience-free President is picking an experience-free ambassador?

But what do ambassadors do anyway? Do ambassadors get their own opinions, or are they only supposed to convey formal policy relations? Its not like he'll be dictating policy?

On the other hand, if he managed to get himself killed by shooting off his mouth, that'll certainly aid Israel's ambition to punish the Palestinians further.

How many innocent Palestinians deaths are worth the death of one ambassador? So many new questions are in our future. What will the next Benghazi chant be and how will the Republicans be able to blame the Democrats this time?

Hopefully the Electoral College Republicans will make the right decision and avoid 270 for Trump, although are there yet any republican replacements who would do differently?

Trump seems to be aiming to satisfy Republican's goal of making Israel an honorary 51st state. I wouldn't be surprised if Netanyahu doesn't get his own honorary "State of the Union" speech in front of Congress in 2018.

sestamibi said...

So in other words, we have to watch what we say or they'll kill us?? Is that what you want?

I don't want to live in a world like that. I'd rather live in a world where THEY have to watch what they say and do or WE'LL kill THEM.

Trigger Warning said...

"I suppose the next best thing to electing an experience-free President is picking an experience-free ambassador?"

"Barack Obama has rewarded some of his most active campaign donors with plum jobs in foreign embassies, with the average amount raised by recent or imminent appointees soaring to $1.8m per post, according to a Guardian analysis. [C]areer diplomats in Washington are increasingly alarmed at how it has grown. One former ambassador described it as the selling of public office."
--- The Guardian

Sam L. said...

"His predecessors apparently did not." Clearly, not "apparently".
"Friedman even had the audacity to suggest that if the New York Times had been as diligent in covering the Holocaust as it is covering the alt right,..." Well, what they claim to think is the alt right. I doubt they actually know who and what are the alt right. I believe it's not well-defined at this time, and includes everyone the NYT doesn't like.

You might want to delete Anon's top post.

Ares, I don't find VOX a reliable source.

I agree with sestamibi and TW!

Ares Olympus said...

Trigger Warning said... "Barack Obama has rewarded some of his most active campaign donors with plum jobs in foreign embassies, with the average amount raised by recent or imminent appointees soaring to $1.8m per post...

I see.
Early in his first term, Obama acknowledged that "there probably will be some" political types serving in diplomatic posts. But the rainmaker-to-ambassador pipeline has continued enough under Obama's watch that the foreign service association last year urged him to cut down as naming political allies to diplomatic positions.

"Now is the time to end the spoils system and the de facto 'three-year rental' of ambassadorships," the group's governing board said in a statement.

"The appointment of non-career individuals, however accomplished in their own field, to lead America's important diplomatic missions abroad should be exceptional and circumscribed, not the routine practice it has become over the last three decades."

It certainly makes sense to me that diplomats should be trained experts, not amateurs. I can see why experts would resent being neglected in favor of political appointments.

I wonder how much training a new ambassador gets, and is it possible to fail those classes? You probably don't want an asshole-type person in such a job for instance, so you'd ideally want training that tests their temperament in tense sitations to see if they explode under pressure or if they can keep their cool and de-escalate situations.

Certainly being an ambassador is a dangerous job, as Chris Stevens discovered, and even being a career diplomat offers no clear protection.

I would think an ambassador should be someone who is willing to say his country is more important than his own life (or ego). Perhaps 99% of the appointments are safe and boring, but they should all be treated as serious positions.

Anonymous said...