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Trump Chooses a Hard-line, Pro-Settler Ambassador to Israel

Trump has named [1] David Friedman as his choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel:

David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.

Trump has made a very bad choice here, but unfortunately it is entirely in line with what we thought we knew about his positions on Israel and Palestine. He has made no secret [2] of his pro-settler views, and he has adopted virtually every conventional hawkish “pro-Israel” position from his support for settlements to hostility to the nuclear deal with Iran. Choosing Friedman is consistent with the generally hard-line, pro-settler positions Trump has already taken, and so it may be the least surprising thing he’s done during the transition.

This is just the latest development in the ongoing transformation of the GOP into a radically hard-line “pro-Israel” party that goes beyond what it was during the Bush years. The Republican Party platform this year was changed [3] to remove any reference to a two-state solution. The platform plank also rejected the accurate description of Israel as an occupier, affirmed the destructive idea that there should be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, and weirdly defined support for Israel as an “expression of Americanism.” Like many other Republicans, Trump has talked about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but unlike most Trump seems to be [4] intent on going through with it [5] despite the enormous diplomatic problems that would be likely to cause the U.S. Assuming Friedman can be confirmed, his nomination suggests that it might actually happen.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but none of this serves U.S. interests and certainly has nothing to do with putting American interests first. Moving the embassy will inflame the situation in the region, needlessly antagonize Palestinians, potentially provoke violence against Israeli and American targets, and pointlessly harm relations with practically every majority-Muslim country in the world. It could put our diplomats there and at other posts around the world in greater danger, and it would provide additional fodder for jihadist propaganda. There will be significant political and diplomatic costs for the U.S. if the embassy is moved, and it will gain us nothing except more and deeper hostility across much of the world. Obviously it would make a mockery of the pretense that the U.S. is or ever could be an “honest broker” in the conflict, and would declare an even closer conflation of U.S. and Israeli interests to our detriment and ultimately to theirs as well.

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25 Comments To "Trump Chooses a Hard-line, Pro-Settler Ambassador to Israel"

#1 Comment By collin On December 16, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

I am almost on the other side of the pro-Israel settlement issue as you in which I have fully given up that Israel is looking for a two state peaceful solution. I believe (rightfully) there will never be a peaceful two-state solution but I do believe Israel is not treating the Palestinian people fairly. For most Palestine citizens, Israel government is the only government they have ever knew. I wonder how Palestinian citizens would rather be called citizens and be allowed to interact freely with Israeli economy. I think the occupation has been so long that we should accept Palestine is part of Israel and treat the residents as citizens.

#2 Comment By Noah172 On December 16, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

I don’t care for this nomination myself, but Daniel should take a breath and note that Trump’s nominations for Secretaries of State and Defense, positions far more important than Ambassador to Israel, do not come from the ranks of Zionist extremists. Mattis has criticized the settlements in the past, while Tillerson comes from an industry which of necessity has to maintain good working relations with Muslim countries and thus faces the suspicion of Israel and its US minions.

#3 Comment By Viriato On December 16, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

@collin: What you’re proposing would destroy Zionism. It would undo the efforts of those who worked tirelessly to make the State of Israel a reality.

#4 Comment By Ellimist000 On December 16, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

Collin, I somewhat agree. Too bad much of Isreal’s current leadership has rejected that idea because doing essentially because doing so won’t keep Isreal “pure” enough for them. Yet another reason we should drop them like a bad habit until saner heads come into power…

#5 Comment By Joppa Bound On December 16, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

Trump was elected to get us out of the Middle East, and he seems to have chosen an ambassador who wants to do something pretty much guaranteed to generate more terrorists, get more Americans killed in terror attacks, and get us dragged deeper into the Middle East.

I hesitate to say that it’s a stupid move, though, because ambassadors tend to be lickspittles, appointed for having that quality to a high degree. This guy seems like precisely that type. This isn’t your grandfather’s Israel any more – the Israel of gentlemen like Abba Eban. An Atlantic City bankruptcy lawyer will fit right in with the Russian/Israeli Mob types who increasingly dominate Israel’s ruling class, and he may even be better than they deserve.

#6 Comment By PAXNOW On December 16, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

Trump is very big a phony. He fooled many of us. I thought he would be even handed in the middle-east and elsewhere. No! He comes to us bought and sold and nicely gift wrapped like the majority of U.S. politicians. Gimme back my vote..

#7 Comment By SF Bay On December 16, 2016 @ 6:08 pm

@PAXNOW, really, you believed all the stuff coming out of Trump’s mouth? You thought he would build the wall? Deport 11 million illegals? Impose tariffs on China and Mexico? Leave Social Security as it is?

None of these, or any of Trump’s other campaign promises are going to happen. Good luck to you if you or your parents are on Social Security and Medicare. His policies are going to hurt hundreds of millions of people, includes millions that voted for him. You don’t get to have your vote back. You do get to live with the consequences of it.

#8 Comment By William Dalton On December 17, 2016 @ 2:22 am

This is actually the position I was hoping Trump would give to John Bolton. Let him spy on them on our behalf for a change.

#9 Comment By Bob_the_other On December 17, 2016 @ 5:59 am

collin and viriato, the old zionist project is already dead, and the fact that apartheid is currently the only way of maintaining the project is telling. The one state solution, which is the only one remaining can take one of two forms: either one which in the short term will produce a great deal of conflict, or one where the Israeli government becomes a federation of some sort.

By the way, the one state solution can be brought about in two different ways: 1) By Israel granting citizenship to all the Palestinians, or 2) By the Palestinian authority disbanding, and letting Israel take up the slack.

#10 Comment By Stephen J Johnston On December 17, 2016 @ 8:57 am

The Two State Solution is dead. West Bank Arab communities now exist as isolated bantustans, and Gaza is an isolated encampment on the Mediterranean Sea, the resources of which the Gazans are prevented from exploiting by the IDF. Among these are food resources, and perhaps 3 trillion cu ft of gas in the Gaza littoral.

There is thus no possibility of Palestinian territorial integrity within which a Sovereign and defensible Palestinian State could be established. A state, which cannot be defended is not a State, hence after circumambulating the issue one must admit that the Two State Solution is Dead.

It has been obvious, since the Bush Road Map For Peace was completely ignored by the current ultra nationalist Likud Government, led by Bibi Netanyahu, that Israel could care less what America thinks about its settlements or its anschluss fur Eretz Israel. And Bibi had no qualms about coming to America in order to quash the Iran Deal, and by so doing defy the current sitting President, Barack Obama.

Trump may recognize an exercise in futility when he faces the issue of the Two State Solution, and think why not throw Ole Bibi a bone by appointing extremist David Friedman to be our representative in Tel Aviv, and thereby get AIPAC off of his back, and that of our Congress for some necessary breathing space.

Tump has chosen a tough road to hoe by planning to shut down the resource wars of Empire, and regime change operations. A little appeasement might make sense in this case.

#11 Comment By rayray On December 17, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

I don’t think projecting onto Trump some kind of internally consistent position or opinion is tomfoolery…he likes Netanyahu because Netanyahu didn’t seem to like Obama and seems like a “tough guy” so let’s be with him! Other tough guy conservatives like Netanyahu as well! Let’s be tough, right?

It’s the sound reasoning behind his affinity for Putin.

#12 Comment By Ex Ranger On December 17, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

@rayray “he likes Netanyahu because Netanyahu didn’t seem to like Obama and seems like a “tough guy” so let’s be with him! “

Right. A “tough guy” who shirks fighting while cashing huge checks from the American taxpayer every year. I thought “tough guys” were supposed to fight. And earn.

But Netanyahu’s Israel sat out the last fifteen years of Middle East wars. So much for “our best friend and ally in the region”. And Israel never earned for us. It only took and kept taking, a huge net economic, strategic, and military burden, and a chronic source of diplomatic difficulties and moral embarrassments.

So it seems possible, if not likely, that Trump may be the president who finally lowers the boom on Netanyahu and the whole tired Israel/America show.

Eventually it’s going to dawn on him that Israel is deeply involved in the worst “deals” America ever made, and that most Americans don’t give a damn about it – particularly Americans in those parts of the country that gave Trump his margin of victory. Three quarters of Jews voted against Trump nationally, and most of the Israel First crowd live in places that not only completely rejected him, but actually hate him.

#13 Comment By PAXNOW On December 17, 2016 @ 4:25 pm

@SFBAY – Thank you. I appreciate your condemnation of my everlasting soul for possibly voting Trump.You have a lot of other sinners to like advise. Maybe, just maybe, judge not and thou shall not be judged. Ever hear that quotation? I also appreciate your summary of NYTNBCFOXCBSABC (which I find more like Pravda than honest news brokers) and the host of other phony news makers (yellow journalists) who want to send our scarce resources and youngsters off to endless wars? I want peace and policies that do not continually put our folks in harm’s way. Bush & Bush, Clinton, Obama have muddled through endless wars not in our interest. I do agree with a lot of your issues. Above all we need peace. Trump seemed the best choice? Time will tell. We certainly know Hillary and Co have an insatiable appetite for war without her kin involved. Tough choice indeed.More social issues can be solved in the absence of wars – especially wars that are not in the interest of the U.S.

#14 Comment By Myron Hudson On December 18, 2016 @ 3:19 am

Although Trump has expressed a more or less consistently realistic bent re foreign policy, he has a blind spot as regards Israel. At least that’s what I’d like to think.

Of course, he could be a Trojan horse for the neocons or the hard right, wittingly or unwittingly. As to the former I would suspect unwittingly and as to the latter I would not be surprised. My expectations ever descending, my guess is that he really has no clue and he is an unwitting tool of both.

#15 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On December 18, 2016 @ 8:48 am

PAXNOW, it’s quite interesting that you equate “living with the consequences of your vote” with “damning your everlasting soul.”

My God, man, man up and live with the consequences of your actions. You were fooled, fine–a great many people were. But millions more of us didn’t believe the phoney Trump. We lost; you didn’t….but in the end, we’re all losing.

#16 Comment By rayray On December 18, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

I find this notion of being “fooled by Trump” a bit odd. He was a sexist, racist, narcissistic and intellectually rudderless brainfart the entire campaign, including in his very first speech.

I remember speeches where he would literally say opposite things about foreign policy WITHIN SENTENCES of each other. He clearly knew nothing about the world, and clearly didn’t care.

So…when exactly did he fool anyone? Everyone who voted for him knew exactly what they were getting and to pretend otherwise now is fraudulent.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 18, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

Ohh nonsense.

I don’t know if I was fooled. It’s too early to tell. On the issue of Israel Mr Trump’s position has been – to be fair and honest broker even if only by appearance. I am unclear of the context of that last reference. But thus far Mr. Trump has made several choices for cabinet that leave me scratching my head. But as he hasn’t taken office yet I am not sure there’s much one can make of these choices.

There has never been any doubt that he was going to take an aggressive stand against international terrorism. I think that requires a much deeper grasp of the issues than what seems to be in play by most of our leaders. But it has been heartening that many Israelis opposed Mr Trump because it suggests that they understand that Israel’s interests will not supersede those of the US.

And the suggestion that about supporter ignorance if one actually buys into the argument that those of who defended Mr Trump believed every word he uttered. That is a false assumption even if it is convenient as some kind of “we told you so.”

It is convenient, but it rests on a false assumption. Furthermore holding one’s candidate accountable is part of the process.

#18 Comment By Liberal On December 18, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

Just as a reminder, Trump had no idea what the nuclear triad is, despite living through the Cold War.

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc On December 18, 2016 @ 8:28 pm

“Just as a reminder, Trump had no idea what the nuclear triad is, despite living through the Cold War.”

I am not sure this matters. Most people in politics have not idea about our strategic capabilities until they need to know. In fact most of the country doesn’t know half of what someone as ignorant as I know. Not because they are unintelligent but because they just have no experience or need to know

Anyone who wants to do anything doesn’t much about what it is they are seeking to do until they proceeded to take it on.

It is assumed that the men and women who have bungled our foreign policy in the middle east know more than Mr. Trump about a lot of things and yet, despite all the supposed expertise — here we are.

We could use a more ignorance in our leadership if it will invoke prudence.

#20 Comment By Student On December 18, 2016 @ 10:29 pm

Re the “triad,” just about everyone knows we have
strategic bombers and land and sea based ballistic
missiles. However, not everyone would immediately understand an isolated reference to the term. This was a puerile attempt at a “gotcha” question.

#21 Comment By liberal On December 19, 2016 @ 7:37 am

No it’s not. It clearly shows that Trump is dangerous ignoramus.

It might be reasonable for someone running for high office who came of age after the Cold War. Otherwise, not.

#22 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 19, 2016 @ 10:25 am

I am starting to think that by doing whatever Bibi Netanyahu tells us to do, we are not helping the Israelis in the long run. Israel is starting to resemble South Africa back in the 1980’s and 1990’s and eventually, they are going to have to deal with all those Palestinians. The smarter Israelis know this, but the hard liners refuse to even discuss the problem. Eventually, US support will erode and they will have to deal with reality.

#23 Comment By a spencer On December 19, 2016 @ 10:18 pm

Secular American Jewish citizens, too, Uncle Billy, many who want to continue their heritage and culture (and plenty who don’t), but not at the expense of being inexorably tied to SOI.

It doesn’t end with Bibi. Naftali Bennett, extreme rabbis, Russian teens getting caught spray-painting swastikas on religious buildings, and you wouldn’t normally guess a search for “bar bouncer Moldova” would turn up the Israeli Defense Minister. I don’t know that I’d have a problem with a bar bouncer from Moldova as Defense Minister… of Moldova. The Levant? Another matter.

I see Socialist International member Meretz has slumped to five seats in Knesset. Alas, I heard kibbutzes were mostly failures.

#24 Comment By panda On December 20, 2016 @ 11:02 am

Back when I was an undergrad at Hebrew U, I used to work as receptionist for the 2nd most expensive hotel in Jerusalem- which catered to the wealthy American religious crowd, who found the most expensive hotel in Jerusalem a bit too immodest for their tastes. Since I had the best English in the department, my job included responsibility for figuring out which emails to answer, and which to move to the hotel’s customer relations people. One time, the hotel hosted a summit about regional development or other such nonsense, which included representatives from the Palestinian Authority. Which meant we had the Palestinian flag on. Which meant we got hundreds of emails from well-off, professional, successful, generous people calling us Nazis, Capos, and wishing God would punish us for collaborating with terrorists. This is the mental world from which Friedman comes…

#25 Comment By rayray On December 20, 2016 @ 12:16 pm

“We could use a more ignorance in our leadership if it will invoke prudence.”

If this is the reasoning that the pro-Trump contingent is reduced to, maybe it’s best to say nothing.