News Roundup for December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

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J Street in the News

All-In With Chris Hayes, MSNBC

Jeremy Ben-Ami joins Chris Hayes to discuss why David Friedman is a disastrous choice for Ambassador to Israel, and completely at odds with the views and values of the large majority of American Jews.

A Dangerous Choice for Ambassador to Israel, The New York Times

“In appointing David Friedman as the next ambassador to Israel, Donald Trump voiced a desire to ‘strive for peace in the Middle East.’ Unfortunately, his chosen representative would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories, heighten regional tensions and undermine American leadership….There are other reasons to question Mr. Friedman’s fitness for the post. He has accused President Obama of anti-Semitism, absurdly, and called supporters of J Street — a liberal American Jewish organization that has lobbied for a two-state solution and the Iran nuclear deal — “far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.” American ambassadors to Israel traditionally maintain close contacts with American Jews, as well as Israeli officials, but Mr. Friedman reportedly told a closed-door forum in Washington earlier this month that he would refuse to meet with J Street, effectively ostracizing a significant part of the community.”

Jewish Storm Builds Over David Friedman’s Appointment as Israel Ambassador, Forward

“Since the announcement Thursday night, J Street has been working to mobilize its supporters in an effort to derail Friedman’s Senate confirmation. With Republicans in full control of the Senate, it is a tall order, which will require all Democrats to vote against Friedman’s confirmation as well as at least three Republican senators who will have to cross party lines. J Street pitch targets mainstream Republicans warning them of the consequences a change in policy driven by Friedman would entail. ‘Given that Mr. Friedman’s hostility to a two-state solution is such a departure from longstanding bipartisan policy, we’re already starting to see real discomfort among many lawmakers from both parties about Mr. Friedman’s positions,’ said Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president for government affairs.”

Leftist Jewish Groups See Donations Surge in Protest of Trump’s Israel Envoy Pick, Haaretz

“J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now are among the organizations that have received donations made ‘in honor of David Friedman,’ though representatives couldn’t say exactly how many of their new contributions were specified that way….In the day and a half since Friedman’s nomination, J Street has received ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ in new gifts, half from new supporters and most of it online, organization spokesman Logan Bayroff told Haaretz. It is more small online gifts ‘than we usually receive in two months,’ Bayroff said. ‘It’s a real surge in support and enthusiasm for our work.’ J Street donor Peter Frey is a Manhattan-based retired Wall Street executive who co-chairs the organization’s New York City chapter and is a J Street national board member. ‘Given the fact that this nomination [of Friedman] is so egregious, so offensive in so many ways, it is not surprising that the J Street numbers of online contributions, and unusually large contributions, are really going through the roof,’ Frey told Haaretz. Friedman’s picking on J Street, a liberal Zionist, anti-BDS organization….‘is a highly unfortunate circumstance which will benefit J Street not just financially but in terms of J Street’s standing,’ Frey said. ‘So many American Jews will look at this and say ‘whose side am I on? Which is a voice of moderation, and which is the voice of extremism?’”

Donald Trump picks a hardliner as ambassador to Israel, Economist

“On December 16th J Street released a statement saying it was vehemently opposed to Mr Friedman’s nomination: ‘Friedman has consistently aligned himself with some of the most irresponsible charges and conspiracy theories of the far-right, Islamophobic fringe in this country.’ The statement pointed out that Mr Friedman has called President Barack Obama an anti-Semite and spread the conspiracy theory that Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Trump Taps Adviser as Ambassador to Israel, CNN

CNN clip cites J Street’s vehement opposition to Friedman’s nomination.

Jewish Groups Campaign to Block Friedman as U.S. Envoy to Israel, Haaretz

“‘We think this is someone completely unqualified to serve as ambassador. We are hopeful senators of both parties will find that he does not meet the litmus test for a position like this,’ said J Street representative Logan Bayroff….Peter Frey, a retired Wall Street executive and member of J Street’s national board, said: ‘It’s going to be an interesting test for members of Congress, especially Jewish ones, who have given lip service to being in favor of the two-state solution. It will also be a test of [pro-Israel lobby] AIPAC, whose platform favors the two-state solution. Friedman is in favor of annexation’ of the West Bank to Israel, he said….J Street PAC gave a record $3.6 million to the Congressional candidates it endorsed in the last election cycle. That, said Bayroff, makes it the largest pro-Israel PAC the fifth time in a row. Ninety-nine members of the next House of Representatives were endorsed by J Street PAC, as were 19 members of the incoming Senate. The vote on Friedman ‘will be a very interesting test,’ said Frey. ‘You cannot be supporting this nomination and say you are wholeheartedly behind a two-state solution. They are just not reconcilable.’”

Trump’s Daily Bankruptcy and the Ambassador to Israel, New Yorker

“‘They’re not Jewish,’ Friedman said of J Street, ‘and they’re not pro-Israel.’ They’re not Jewish. This is a calumny of the most disgusting order. But hardly a new one. Netanyahu, in the hope of solidifying his conservative and religious base, was once overheard whispering in the ear of the Sephardic leader and rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, “The left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish.” The question of Jewish identity has for centuries been a matter of debate and halakhah, Jewish law. It has never, to my knowledge, been a matter of bankruptcy law. They’re not Jewish. When one read this morning in the paper that Friedman ‘has no experience in diplomacy,’ one could only mutter, ‘No kidding.’”

U.S. Jewish groups oppose Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel, LA Times

“J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group that supports a two-state solution, said it was ‘vehemently’ opposed to Friedman’s confirmation in the Senate… ‘His nomination is reckless, putting America’s reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street.”

Trump Selects Adviser David Friedman As Ambassador To Israel, NPR

“David Friedman’s appointment still needs Senate confirmation. Liberal Jewish groups say they’ll fight it. J Street, the group whose supporters Friedman called Nazi kapos, is calling Friedman’s nomination reckless.”

Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador Is No Diplomat, The Atlantic

Unsurprisingly, J Street reacted negatively to Friedman’s nomination, saying in a statement, “The nomination shows breathtaking disdain for the vast majority of American Jews who support the two-state solution, progress toward peace with the Palestinians and common decency in public discourse.”

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador to Israel Could Kill the Two-State Solution, The Nation

“J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said: ‘David Friedman, the President of the pro-settlement organization American Friends of Beit El, has argued that Trump should back Israel’s annexation of large parts of the West Bank. He’s accused President Obama of being an anti-Semite. And, he’s called J Street “worse than kapos.” If you’re not familiar with that term, Google it. It’s the kind of horrifically offensive rhetoric we’d expect from anonymous trolls online—not from the next Ambassador of the US to Israel. This is a dark time, not only for J Street but for all Jews and Americans who care about Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish homeland.’”

Trump Taps Hardliner to Be U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Foreign Policy

“Friedman also hasn’t been particularly shy about criticizing his political detractors, including J Street, the Washington-based, liberal advocacy group on Israel-Palestine issues….J Street loves him no less. ‘Trump’s pick of Friedman for Israel Ambassador is anathema to values that underlie US-Israel relationship. We’ll fight this with all we’ve got,’ J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said.

Donald Trump’s Pick for US Ambassador to Israel Signals Changes in US Policy, ABC News

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal advocacy group J Street, said Friedman was ‘anathema to values that underlie U.S.-Israel relationship’ and promised to fight his confirmation.”

Top News and Analysis

2 Jewish Congressmen Reject David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel, Forward

“Two Jewish Democrats in Congress said President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Israel ambassador is dangerous and out of sync with U.S. Jews and U.S. policies. U.S. Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Friday that confirming David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel will have ‘dangerous consequences for both the United States and Israel.’….Nadler said in the statement issued a day after the appointment that: ‘The nomination of David Friedman as the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel underscores, yet again, the extremist agenda of Donald Trump and his administration.’….Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky echoed Nadler’s statement on Saturday in a post on Facebook. He said in the post that the appointment of Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel “is totally out of step with longstanding, bipartisan US foreign policy. At a challenging and precarious time in the Middle East, catering to right-wing inflammatory views that will unnecessarily strain our relationships in the region is extremely dangerous. We should be working toward a two-state solution, with both Jews and Palestinians living alongside each other in peace and security.”

Donald Trump’s Israel Ambassador Pick Is Hazardous to Peace, New York Times

Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer writes, “Mr. Friedman is unqualified for the position, but more important, he holds extreme views on the very issues that he will need to manage as a diplomat. Mr. Friedman would be representing not the American people but a small, extreme minority of Americans who have in mind the interests of a small, extreme minority in Israel. Mr. Friedman has been publicly arguing that Israel has a right to build settlements and annex parts of the West Bank. He believes that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He considers pro-peace groups such as J Street the equivalent of the Jewish kapos who collaborated with the Nazis at concentration camps. His appointment suggests that Mr. Trump is comfortable with these positions, which is extremely perilous and unwise. If Mr. Trump does not agree with Mr. Friedman, but has appointed him because of personal ties and loyalty, then it is clear that Mr. Trump either does not know or does not care that the Friedman appointment could severely damage the United States and his administration.”

Trump Donated $10,000 to West Bank Settlement, Haaretz

President-elect Donald Trump donated $10,000 to institutions located in the West Bank settlement of Beit El in 2003, it emerged on Sunday. The donation appears in the income tax filings of the Donald J. Trump Foundation for 2003. His foundation made a total of $186,700 in charitable donations that year to close to 40 institutions. The gift to Beit El was among the largest.

Amona Settlers Accept Netanyahu’s Proposal for Illegal Outpost’s Evacuation, Haaretz

“The residents of Amona voted on Sunday to accept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s new proposal for an agreed-upon evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost. The proposal stipulated that the number of trailers to be allowed to be set up on a nearby hilltop considered by the state to be absentee property will be doubled, and ‘extra efforts to maximize the number of residents left on the mountain’ will be made, said a source who participated in a nighttime meeting on the subject.”


Dem: Trump’s Israel ambassador uses ‘frighteningly casual’ Holocaust talk to vilify liberal Jews, The Hill

“Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) says President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Israel ‘lacks any foreign policy experience.’ Moore specifically ripped David Friedman for comparing liberal Jews to Nazi collaborators.”

Inside Amona Evacuation Budget: 70 Million Shekels to Build New Settlement, Haaretz

The cabinet allocated 130 million shekels ($34 million) on Sunday to cover the costs of evacuating Amona, after residents of the illegal settlement outpost accepted the government’s latest offer for a voluntary evacuation. The biggest chunk of the money, 70 million shekels, will go to building a new settlement near Shvut Rachel.

Palestinian, 19, reportedly killed during clashes with Israeli forces in West Bank, JTA

A 19-year-old Palestinian was killed during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank.

Ahmad Hazem Ata al-Rimawi was shot in the chest early Sunday morning during a riot in the Palestinian village of Beit Rima, near Ramallah, the Palestinian Ministry of Health told the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Israel’s Mossad chief reportedly gives secret intelligence briefing to Trump staff, JTA

The head of Israel’s Mossad national intelligence agency made a secret visit to the United States to meet with members of President-elect Donald Trump staff and give them a security briefing.

Israelis begin building road to illegal outpost on Palestinian village’s land, Ma’an

Israeli bulldozers started building a road on Palestinian land leading to an illegal settlement outpost in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Sunday morning, a Palestinian official told Ma’an. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said that Israelis began working on a road servicing the outpost of Shvut Rachel, encroaching on Palestinian lands south of the Palestinian village of Jalud.

Opinion and Analysis

Friedman as Israeli Ambassador: Israel Loses, Palestine Loses, Putin Wins, Daily Beast

Jay Michaelson writes, “Ironically, the appointment of one of the leaders of the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank (ruled illegal by the International Criminal Court and opposed by every American administration since Nixon), and an extreme Jewish nationalist may, in the end, be a catastrophe for Israel. First, America’s role as “honest broker” in the region will be immediately lost.  To the extent Friedman is representative of U.S. policy – and remember, he’s only an ambassador – that policy will shift on January 20 from broker to advocate.  And not just advocate for Israel – but advocate of a view far to the right of Israel’s right-wing government….Ironically, the appointment of one of the leaders of the Israeli settlement project in the West Bank (ruled illegal by the International Criminal Court and opposed by every American administration since Nixon), and an extreme Jewish nationalist may, in the end, be a catastrophe for Israel. First, America’s role as “honest broker” in the region will be immediately lost.  To the extent Friedman is representative of U.S. policy – and remember, he’s only an ambassador – that policy will shift on January 20 from broker to advocate.  And not just advocate for Israel – but advocate of a view far to the right of Israel’s right-wing government….Of course, while liberal Israelis will suffer because of a Trump-Friedman America, Palestinians will suffer far more.  An America that unequivocally backs permanent Israeli occupation is a human rights disaster in the short term, and a moral disaster in the long term.”

In Absurd Theatre of Israel, Netanyahu Submits to Settler Outlaws, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “For Netanyahu, anything can be sold at a discount or mortgaged for the sake of his own political survival. The man who just a week declared that he continues to support the two-state solution has proven he will fold like an accordion under pressure from 40 families in a single illegal outpost in the middle of nowhere. So how exactly will he evacuate 100,000 Jews from their homes in isolated settlements?….The residents exploited their negotiating ability to the full. And he exploited his capacity to be extorted, also in full. Amona residents are emerging from this story with heaps of spoils. They’ll become the heroes of the settlement enterprise. It would be no surprise to see one lighting a torch on Independence Day, for the glory of the State of Israel.”

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