News Roundup for December 20, 2016

December 20, 2016

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J Street in the News

Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel is unfit to serve, Washington Post

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes of David Friedman, “What views do I hold that could evoke such hate? I believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an existential necessity if Israel is to remain a Jewish homeland and that expansion of West Bank settlements risks Israel’s security and its democratic character. As important, I believe ruling as an occupying power over millions of Palestinians for 50 years while denying them their rights is not only strategically unwise but also morally unjustifiable. Friedman, on the other hand, thinks the idea of two states is “an illusion.” He played a role in erasing support for the idea from the Republican Party platform this summer. He has actively worked to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank as president of an American nonprofit that raises money, with U.S. taxpayer support, to expand the West Bank settlement enterprise.”

Trump’s choice for Israeli ambassador is a danger to American lives, Washington Post

Richard Cohen writes, “Friedman has aimed his kapo insult at J Street, a liberal Jewish organization that favors a two-state solution and has opposed the settler movement. These positions, while eminently reasonable, are anathema to right-wing Israelis and their American Jewish counterparts. They, however, are a minority — both of Israelis and American Jews. For Friedman to have likened J Street to “worse than kapos” is more than just a revolting insult. It takes moderation off the table. It delegitimizes what has been American policy and the desire of the mainstream American Jewish community. Friedman is hardly a diplomat. He’s a zealot with a political potty mouth. The Senate will get a crack at Friedman. This is a nomination that must be rejected. He is a danger to peace in the Middle East, to American lives, to moderation and to civil discourse. As for his kapos crack, Friedman cannot repudiate it because he has both said it and written it. If the Senate approves his nomination, it will have endorsed calling Jewish liberals and moderates the equivalent of those who helped the Nazis. I can think of nothing worse.”

Top News and Analysis

When It Comes to New Israel Envoy David Friedman, Bibi Should Be Careful What He Wishes For, Forward

Jane Eisner writes, “Friedman’s appointment could upend the balancing act that Netanyahu has perfected over the years, in so many spheres. If his appointment is approved, Friedman’s vocal and offensive disdain for liberal Jews could tip the scales on issues of religious and political pluralism; it could damage Netanyahu’s attempts to proclaim that he represents all the Jewish people; and it could especially threaten the already frayed relations between this Israeli government and the growing number of American Jews who feel alienated from or rejected by it.”

Netanyahu Sees Opportunity for ‘Historic Changes’ With Trump Administration, Haaretz

Donald Trump’s presidency will enable Israel and the United States to advance joint moves on several diplomatic and security issues that weren’t possible under U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said at several closed meetings over the past two weeks, according to a senior cabinet minister. The minister, who asked to remain anonymous, said Netanyahu’s great expectations of Trump stemmed from what Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel heard from Michael Flynn, whom Trump has nominated as his national security adviser. Both men met with Flynn in the United States earlier this month.

Trump’s Pick for Envoy to Israel: For Greater Israel or the Greater Good?, Haaretz

Sarah Hirschhorn observes, “Friedman is the face of the rightward drift of both U.S. and Israeli Zionism over the past five decades. While it is too soon to say whether Friedman will be confirmed and what concrete actions he may take as ambassador, his choice will certainly bring these two worlds on a collision course with liberal and centrist Zionists, Palestinians and the international community. Friedman’s vocal identification with an ultra-nationalist vision during the election campaign and since offers a challenge to the traditional role of ambassador as representative, envoy and diplomat who doesn’t behave like a posterchild for a particular point-of-view or propagandist for a political project. Few diplomatic roles are as demanding, or scrutinized as searchingly, as the position of U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who must at least try to be an honest broker in a broken home. To do both countries he supports a public service, he must transcend his communities on both the East Coast and the West Bank. David Friedman has a choice: is he Ambassador for Greater Israel or for the Greater Good?”


PLO will revoke Israel recognition if US moves embassy, top official warns, Times of Israel

The incoming Trump administration moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the PLO will revoke its recognition of Israel, the prospect of a two-state solution will be over, and any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace in the future will vanish, the top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned on Monday.

Israeli Army Raids ‘Largest Arms Workshop’ in West Bank, Haaretz

Israeli forces raided the largest arms workshop in the West Bank, the military said Monday. The raid, which took place in Hebron’s Palestinian industrial area revealed an underground facility for arms and munitions. The army say they found 12 lathes for arms making, hundreds of types of munitions and spare parts for different types of guns, including automatic rifles.

Arab MK suspected of passing intel to Palestinian prisoner who murdered soldier, Times of Israel

An Arab MK accused of passing telephones and SIM cards to a pair of Palestinian security prisoners is also suspected of handing “intelligence information” to one of the two, Channel 2 television reported Monday.

Palestinian mayor says land set aside for Amona evacuees also privately owned, Ma’an

Israeli authorities have notified the municipal council of the occupied West Bank town of Silwad of plans to confiscate privately-owned land in the town’s outskirts, to be used to house residents of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona, which is slated for imminent demolition.

Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Launch Online Attack Against Montana Jews, Haaretz

The neo-Nazi, white supremacist website The Daily Stormer published photographs of Jewish residents of a Montana town with Holocaust-era yellow stars bearing the word “Jude” photoshopped onto their images.

Jewish Leader Praises Ban Ki-moon for Acknowleding anti-Israel Bias at UN, Haaretz

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for publicly admitting that there is an anti-Israel bias at the international body. Lauder in a statement issued on Monday welcomed the “long-awaited and impactful” pronouncement by Ban during his final address to the body on Friday, but criticized him for not calling out the bias over the course of his nearly 10-year term.

Opinion and Analysis

Who is Standing Up to Friedman?, J Street Blog

A running list of Members of Congress, Jewish communal organizations and papers who’ve spoken out against Friedman.

David Friedman Does More Than Write for Far-Right News Site, Forward

“Friedman is the president of a Queens-based charity called American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva, which sends just under $2 million each year to an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva in the Israeli settlement of Bet El. That yeshiva, now called Bet El Institutions, also runs Arutz Sheva….Today, Arutz Sheva operates a website and a free weekly newspaper. Based in Bet El, it is particularly popular among settlers. Its English-language edition,, is perhaps the most consistently right-wing English media outlet in Israel with a mainstream audience. In 2010, Arutz Sheva marked the fifteenth anniversary of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination with a contest soliciting the “most interesting” conspiracy theory about the murder.”

Boston JCRC Statement Regarding Nomination of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Boston JCRC

“JCRC believes that it is intolerable that any representative of the United States – particularly one who would represent our nation to the Jewish state – could and does refer to members of our Jewish community as “worse than Kapos” or “not Jewish.” Further, we know that the Middle East is a tinderbox which can burst into flames at the slightest provocation. What is needed now is a strong, judicious ambassador who knows how to facilitate conciliation; not someone who will fuel polarization and heighten conflict.  Mr. Friedman has the right to his opinions, but his injudicious readiness to express them and his stubborn refusal to step back from them and issue a clear, public and unqualified apology, suggests a danger that he will pose to U.S. interests in the region if his nomination is approved. We urge our Senators to address this matter during the confirmation process.”

Adjectives Fail Me. Best to Let David Friedman Speak for Himself, Haaretz

Peter Beinart writes, “I’ve spent the better part of two days trying to craft a column about David M. Friedman, the man Donald Trump has just nominated to be America’s Ambassador to Israel. I can’t do it. Adjectives fail me. Better to let him speak for himself. What follows are selections from Friedman’s writings, with brief responses in italics.”

EU wary of Israeli attempts at West Bank annexation, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir writes, “Alarm bells were going off in European Union capitals when on Dec. 7 the Israeli Knesset passed, at a first hearing, the settlement regularization bill, which legalizes illegal Israeli settlements built on private Palestinian lands….Last week, EU foreign ministers, mainly from Germany, France and the United Kingdom, as well as EU senior officials held internal consultations over the significance of this Israeli right-wing coalition move. According to an associate of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European leadership does not consider this development to be a simple tactical maneuver by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protect the stability of his coalition. Rather, they see it as an intentional policy move instigated by Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett — a dangerous expression of a possible de jure annexation of West Bank lands by the Israeli government.”

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