David Friedman: ally or threat?

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By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
@JakeatUMD

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In the hyper-nuanced, ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, peace should always be the endgame. If we want to justify American interventionism, we must be in pursuit of the values that define us – democracy, peace, and justice.

Throughout the conflict, the U.S. government’s position has remained staunchly pro-Israel – up to and including the policies of the Obama administration. Historically, supporting our greatest ally in the region has been a main objective of the U.S. However, in adherence to American values, the U.S. government has sometimes taken a stance opposite to that of the Israeli government; the Suez Crisis  under President Eisenhower in 1956 and, more notably, the UN settlement resolution just last year under President Obama are two such high-profile cases of historic policy differences.

However, President Donald Trump’s  ambassador to Israel appointee represents a monumental, hardline-conservative shift in U.S. foreign policy when it comes to Israel. Ambassador David Friedman, who was confirmed by a Senate panel March 9, could not be further from the U.S. government’s typical stance towards the conflict – that of optimism and hopes for a balance of power and peace in the region.

Friedman represents not necessarily unwavering support for the wellbeing of Israel, but for the well being of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’d like to think that the prime minister of Israel knows what’s best for his own country, but his attempts at peace in the past have been far from successful.

Friedman isn’t a typical ambassador. Like most of his counterparts in the Trump administration, Friedman hails from the banking industry. He’s not a diplomat, he’s a bankruptcy lawyer. It might be difficult for many Jews to support an ambassador who has made a career from profiting off the failure of others. A contingency plan should not be the first proposed solution for such a nuanced conflict.

As far as policy, he is also the figurehead of a monumental departure from the U.S. government’s traditional support for a two-state solution. He asserts that such a solution is an “illusion” and that even a Palestinian majority holds support for a one-state solution in the form of an inclusive Israel. Only a few months later, however, JPost reported that a heavy majority of Israeli Jews and Palestinians oppose such a solution.

Ambassador Friedman also fails to represent most American Jews. While American Jews consistently vote Democrat more so than any other religious group – including in the 2016 election-Friedman attacked Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the election, even claiming that she was “no friend of Israel.” Does he also believe that a majority of American Jews are “no friend of Israel” for voting for Clinton? He accused members of J-Street, a progressive pro-Israel organization that supports a two-state solution, of being “worse than kapos” – Jews who turned in fellow Jews to the Nazi Party during the Holocaust.Is recognition of the Palestinian cause predicated on rejection of Israel as an independent, Jewish state? Is voting for Democrats an indication of abandoned support for Israel? Have progressive Americans priorities “progress” over love for Israel?

Of course not.

I’d say that it is Ambassador Friedman who is no friend to Israel. Any friend of Israel would realize that unity and reason are the only two forces that can drive us to a fair solution for this nuanced conflict. Yet he has consistently shown himself to be a divider, marginalizing many groups on both sides of the conflict.

Bipartisan support for Israeli-Palestinian peace is dying, and the Trump administration is the primary force in the perpetuation of this division.

Jake is a senior international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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