Guest Column by Harold Kirtz
What? A bankruptcy lawyer? A denier of a two-state solution? An accuser of fellow Jews as worse than Nazi collaborators? As ambassador to Israel?
Donald Trump has confounded logic, protocol and any other standard that you might expect from a new president. Is he blowing up the ship of state? Is he upending precedent just because he can, or does he have a grand playbook he is working from? And if it is a new playbook, what are his ultimate goals?
So far, he is putting several Goldman Sachs guys in charge of the economy after he extravagantly criticized Goldman Sachs and its influence and blamed its executives for putting themselves above the rest of the country.
He is placing climate deniers in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency and other critical agencies. He is putting an anti-Obamacare, anti-Medicare advocate in charge of Health and Human Services. He is putting a friend of Vladimir Putin’s in charge of the State Department. He is making a conspiracy theory tweeter his national security adviser. He is placing an opponent of public schools in charge of the Department of Education and putting neophytes at HUD and other agencies.
Is he placing them in charge and telling them to operate opposite to what they have always believed? Or are they likely to operate as foxes in charge of the henhouses?
To top it off, he announced that his personal bankruptcy lawyer, who has never held a diplomatic position or been in a position to act like a diplomat, will be nominated as the ambassador to Israel.
David Friedman is a pleasant surprise to the far right in Israel because he has been a supporter of the settler movement, has raised money for the settler movement, and has famously accused fellow Jews who believe in the two-state solution as being worse than Nazi collaborators.
For example, in a June essay for the pro-settler Israeli news site Arutz Sheva, Friedman wrote that liberal Jews such as J Street supporters are “far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has cried out that “Mr. Friedman’s appointment is even more disturbing given his hateful rhetoric. Using Nazi imagery, such as the term kapo — a reference to Jews who cooperated and/or assisted the Nazis during the Holocaust — when referring to Jews or Israel today, no matter the circumstance, is broadly deemed to be anti-Semitic and should be condemned.”
Nadler pointed out that, with Friedman’s appointment, “Trump has continued the divisive politics that were regularly on display during his campaign.”
Even more problematically, Friedman is an advocate for a one-state solution. He believes that the two-state solution is a policy of no continuing consequence. With Trump as president and Friedman as ambassador, the Israeli government will be free to expand building within the boundaries of the existing settlements without the U.S. administration limiting its actions.
“We will now see the prime minster building more because he will no longer have the fear of consequences imposed by the United States,” Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America has said.
Trump has repeatedly said he is his own best adviser. He has admitted that he reads little. He has failed to follow advice of those in positions to know. He is not curious to get his daily intelligence briefings or even weekly briefings.
It is one thing to listen to all the relevant information and advice and follow a path of his own choosing, but he does not adequately inform himself and appears to offer simplistic solutions without any basis for believing they will work. That is a recipe for many potential disasters.
By selecting his personal bankruptcy attorney, he is playing with fire on his pick for Israeli ambassador. With the ambassador being an advocate for a one-state solution, the international attention on the Middle East will blame Israel even more than it does now for conditions on the ground.
The principal cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the intransigence of the Palestinians in not recognizing and accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East. It has been hard enough to get the world, the Arab nations and the Palestinians to recognize and act on that fact.
We should be working to place the onus on the Palestinians to act in a way that ensures a permanent, stable, peaceful two-state solution as the best way to ensure an Israel going into future generations.
With the appointment of Friedman, that has been made exponentially more difficult. The Senate should reject his nomination.