Donald Trump, Seeking Ambassadors, Sorts Through Competing Priorities, The New York Times
“[T]he nomination of Mr. Friedman, a conservative who has been deeply critical of the pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, and who has vowed to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, has roiled large sections of the foreign policy establishment — just the kind of disruption Mr. Trump liked to emphasize in his campaign.”
Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC
J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami joins Andrea Mitchell to discuss why David Friedman is incredibly unsuited to serve as US Ambassador to Israel.
J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “David Friedman, the bankruptcy lawyer Trump has chosen to represent our nation in Israel, thinks that the pro-peace, pro-Israel organization J Street, which I work for, and its hundreds of thousands of members and supporters are “worse than kapos.” That demonstrates how unsuited he is for the position….Fellow supporters of the Israeli extreme right routinely use this pejorative to blacken the names of peace activists, proponents of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights advocates and in general members of the progressive Zionist camp.”
“The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Thursday on a draft resolution that would demand that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” Egypt circulated the draft on Wednesday evening and the 15-member council is due to vote at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Thursday, diplomats said. They said it was unclear how the United States, which has protected Israel from U.N. action, would vote. The White House declined to comment. Some council diplomats hope President Barack Obama, who has had a rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, may allow Security Council action by abstaining on the vote.”
“The United States would be breaching its long-standing commitment to Israel should it decides not to veto a UN Security Council draft resolution on settlements, a senior Israeli official said. The official added that Israel expects the U.S. to act in accordance with its long-term policy, unhindered by changes in administration, according to which negotiations must be carried out directly between Israel and the Palestinians themselves.”
“Becky Norton Dunlop, deputy to the senior adviser on Trump’s transition team for policy and personnel…attended a three-day conference in Jerusalem alongside conservative lawmakers from the United States and Europe. On Wednesday, the group was scheduled to meet with deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely at the Knesset, but the foreign ministry made it clear that one group member, Kristina Winberg, a European Parliament representative from the Sweden Democrats party would not be allowed to participate, because of her party’s ‘neo-Nazi tendencies,’ according to Israel’s foreign ministry’s spokesman. Norton Dunlop, the Trump transition team official, and other group members, would not accept the exclusion of the Swedish nationalist and decided to boycott the meeting with Hotovely.”
The French ambassador to Israel said Thursday that the draft UN Security Council resolution against the settlements submitted by Egypt is balanced and matches France’s position, and that she expects her country to support it.
Donald Trump’s plan to move the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a “game changer”, according to diplomats, as senior Palestinian officials warn that the move could provoke regional violence. Criticised by international legal experts, analysts and former senior US officials, the proposal has heightened concern over what the president-elect’s policies would mean for an already moribund Israel-Palestine peace process and the future of a two-state solution.
For the first time since 2007, Palestinian lawmakers affiliated with the Fatah movement participated in a meeting at the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, and declared a recent decision by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to strip certain officials of their parliamentary immunity illegal and unconstitutional.
Knesset set to give final approval to 2017-2018 budget, Times of Israel
The Knesset on Wednesday was set to give its final approval to the NIS 906 billion ($236 billion) two-year budget for 2017 and 2018. The plenum was set to vote on the biennial budget in its second and third readings on Wednesday afternoon, when it was expected to pass with full coalition support, clinching a significant boost for the government’s stability in the upcoming two years.
The High Court of Justice ordered Wednesday the Amona settlers to commit to a peaceful evacuation of the illegal outpost, after only several of the settlers responded to a state petition to postpone their eviction. In their statement, the justices refused to say whether such a commitment would lead to the court postponing the evacuation, scheduled for this weekend. The state submitted the petition Tuesday night, telling the court the evacuation agreement with Amona’s settlers could not be implemented.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen writes, “We are at a deeply disturbing moment when those on the political right are not in the least bit fazed by such disturbing rhetoric. A respected conservative political insider I interviewed about Friedman’s nomination attributed Jewish liberals’ upset to their naivete. When asked how he felt about Friedman’s name-calling, he shot back that it sounded like I was siding with the progressives. Trump’s election has made grotesque name-calling acceptable, even to otherwise well-behaved people, as long as they agree with his politics. One should not need to be liberal to find the acidity washing through the Jewish community, as through politics in general in these Trumpian times, deeply disturbing.”
“For California Jewish Democrat Brad Sherman, a staunch supporter of Israel in Congress, it’s more about what David Friedman believes in than about where he will sit as ambassador to Israel….“The policy of trying to box in Netanyahu and force him out of the two-state solution, which is the official policy of his government, is not something that the Senate is going to want to see,” Sherman said. “What we don’t need is someone playing a foreigner’s role in Israeli politics, trying to egg on Israeli into a belief that somehow they can announce to the world that they are permanently going to govern millions of Palestinians but somehow not let them vote.” Sherman compared the idea of abandoning the two-state solution to similar notions raised in the past by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi….The next ambassador to Israel, Sherman added, should be someone who acts as “an honest, low key, diplomatic source of communication” between the two countries. Sherman is the sixth Jewish Democratic member of Congress to speak out against Friedman’s appointment as ambassador to Israel. On Wednesday, California’s Alan Lowenthal said that Trump’s choice of Friedman ‘does damage to our credibility and makes peace more difficult.’”
Shlomi Eldar reports, “The past week was one of the hardest time periods in the short history of the Arab Joint List, and especially for its chairman, Ayman Odeh. It all began on Dec. 16 when Adal Amar, the head of Maki (the Communist Party faction within Hadash, which itself is part of the Joint List alliance), publicized a statement congratulating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for conquering Aleppo. The statement generated a tempest even among the supporters of the Joint List. Two days later, it was revealed that Knesset member Basel Ghattas (of the Balad Party, also part of the Joint List) is suspected of smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners in the Israeli Ketziot jail; this, of course, delivered a significant blow to Odeh’s attempts at building bridges between Jews and Arabs. But an even more severe a problem from Odeh’s vantage point was that sections of the Arab sector also wondered aloud whether their Arab Knesset representatives were indeed serving the interests of Arab citizens of Israel, or whether their representatives had, instead, become a millstone around their necks.”