U.S. ambassador David Friedman’s extensive interview with Walla! made headlines around the world when he broke with 70 years of U.S. policy and said that Israeli settlements were part of Israel. He also propounded fake facts when he erroneously declared that Israel occupied only 2% of the West Bank. These outrageous comments have been covered extensively. But the rest of the interview deserves attention as well.
Friedman said about Israel:
“…The State of Israel is the second country [after the U.S.]…of my love, my great affection, my historical country, my religious birthplace if you will.
If this doesn’t raise the specter of dual loyalty, nothing will. Here Friedman acknowledges Israel is much more than a country with which he as a Jew has an affinity. Terms like “birthplace” are far more emotional and definitive than having an affinity. In fact, Israel is his second home. But not a vacation home. Something much more substantial than that. It is one thing to be an American Orthodox Jew and hold such views, but to be a U.S. government diplomat and declare loyalty to a foreign state in the way he has is beyond deplorable. What’s more–he isn’t just declaring loyalty to a state, but to the more nationalistic, intolerant and Islamophobic elements of that State; a state within a state.
In a statement sure to further anger Palestinians, the ambassador further called Jerusalem “the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” Jerusalem is certainly an important city both for Israel and the Jewish people. But the capital of the Jewish people? No, Diaspora Jews do not have a capital. Their ‘capital’ is the capital of their homelands. Any Jew prepared to swear allegiance to Jerusalem as his capital should become an Israeli citizen.
The State Department, while not explicitly denouncing Friedmand’s remarks, noted that they “should not be read as a shift in US policy.” If they aren’t, then what is the purpose of Friedman being ambassador? Who does he represent if he doesn’t represent U.S. policy? And what ever would represent a real break with U.S. policy? Endorsing Palestinian genocide? That may be next.
The new U.S. peace negotiator attempted to create a distinction between prior peace efforts by U.S. administrations saying Trump was approaching things “a bit more creatively, a bit more practically, less ideologically.” Who could be more ideological than an Orthodox Jewish settler who donated millions to Israeli settlements? The words left his mouth, then flew off into empty space. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? No, it’s blather. Concealing an emptiness at the core.
He added that the Trump approach would work if “both sides see this as an opportunity.” Why would they? Why should Netanyahu need an opportunity that is better than the status quo? As for the Palestinians: where is the opportunity? What can this process achieve for them? Nothing.
Friedman praised the “interest and flexibility” in the Arab world toward the Trump approach; and the “natural alliances” between the Gulf States and Israel. By which he means that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni vassal states have become allies with Israel and the U.S. in the war against Iran and Syria. However, he is deluded if he believes that this will translate into the Saudis presenting a deal favorable to Israel on a silver platter to Bibi and Trump.
There is the notion in Israel and the U.S. that the Arab world is so corrupt that money will buy virtually anything, including loyalty and peace deals. What they don’t realize is that Saudi Arabia’s ability to coerce results it sees in its interests don’t extend far beyond its own borders. In other words, Israel is putting all its eggs into the Saudi basket. When they break it will have nothing to show for it.
Friedman offered that a peace plan would be offered “within months.” Again, another chimera shimmering in the ether with no substance whatsoever.
The interviewer asked the U.S. ambassador if he would ever say the words “two state solution.” He began by saying “conceivably.” But then laid his real cards on the table by saying “that phrase has largely lost all its meaning…It’s not a helpful term because it means different things to different people.” By which he means that Israel refuses to recognize a Palestinian state. And because of this refusal, the term “two states” is unhelpful to the Israeli rejectionist approach.
When the interviewer asked him what the term meant to him, he was caught tongue-tied because he opposes the term. He replied: “It doesn’t mean…I’m not sure. To me, I’m not focussing on labels. I’m focussing on solutions.”
In discussing the settlements, he went back in history and declared that the 1967 borders “were viewed by everybody as not secure.” By which, he certainly doesn’t mean Arabs or Palestinians, who would certainly disagree. Nor would he even mean most Israelis, as most Israelis do not favor retaining the settlements as part of Israel as Friedman does. So in effect he really is saying that settler nationalists like himself and the rest of the Likud don’t view 1967 borders as secure. Which is far different from what he did say.
He added, again going back to 1967: “There was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank.” Again, that would be news to the Arab world and a good portion of Israel itself.
When the Israeli interviewer asked him whether some of the settlements would be withdrawn and returned to the Palestinians he refused to reply with anything more substantive than: “Wait and see.”
When the interviewer wondered at Friedman’s continuing unwillingness to say anything substantive, calling it “being secretive,” the latter replied: “It’s not easy.” Indeed, it’s hard to say something while saying nothing.
When pressed about events in Charlottesville, Friedman refused to be drawn into the discussion saying: “I didn’t know anything about the [alt right] people there. I really paid little attention to it.” This sort of answer would’ve fit right in with the responses of “good Germans” who knew nothing about what Hitler did to the Jews, and therefore shouldn’t be blamed or share any responsibility.
Further Friedman made the flagrantly false claim that Pres. Trump “has condemned racism more than any other President I’ve seen.” In lumping together homophobia, racism and misogyny and “all those horrible terms” he flippantly meant to make light of claims by Trump’s opponents that these were meaningful terms at all, let alone relevant to Trump and his character.
I just did a PressTV interview about the Friedman story here: