David Friedman is supposed to be the American Ambassador in Israel.
Yet he regularly acts more like the ambassador of the right-wing settlement movement he funds than of the country he serves.
Just this week, Friedman told a group of Jewish leaders that evacuation of 400,000 settlers from the West Bank as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could lead to a “civil war” and stated definitively that the settlers “are not going anywhere.”
Nearly all objective experts who’ve looked at the issue agree that only a limited percentage of settlers beyond the Green Line would need to relocate because negotiations over an Israeli-Palestinian border would certainly include land swaps.
Wildly exaggerating the number of settlers who would need to move under a peace deal is a favored scare tactic of settler advocates looking to make a two-state agreement seem infeasible -- which it is not.
In his remarks, Friedman reportedly also played down the significance of Israeli-Palestinian peace, claiming that an agreement was not needed to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Again and again, David Friedman’s outrageous remarks reflect his personal opinions and contradict longstanding, bipartisan US policy.
In September, Friedman falsely told the press that “settlements are part of Israel” and that Israel is “only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank.” His comments were so incorrect and dangerous that the State Department was forced to publicly clarify that they did not represent a shift in US policy.
In December, Friedman reportedly requested that the State Department cease using the terms “occupation” and “Israeli-occupied territories” to refer to Israeli rule in the West Bank.
And in January, in response to a brutal terrorist attack that killed an Israeli, the ambassador tweeted “Look no further to why there is no peace” -- the kind of reductive, over-simplified rhetoric that is totally unacceptable for a responsible diplomat.
When President Trump first nominated him to serve as ambassador, it was clear that Friedman’s right-wing ideology, ties to the settlement movement and history of incendiary attacks made him a dangerous and inappropriate choice.
That’s why, just over a year ago, J Street launched a campaign to fiercely oppose his nomination.
Thanks in part to the efforts of J Street supporters like you, Friedman was met with an unprecedented level of scrutiny and opposition during his confirmation hearings -- with 46 Senators voting against him. To secure the slim majority of votes needed to become ambassador, he was forced to renounce almost his entire record. Republican Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker observed that Friedman had “recant[ed] every single strongly held belief that you’ve expressed, almost.”
Since then, the ambassador’s actions in office have broken the promises he made to Senators -- and thrilled his friends on the Israeli right.
His conduct is the most glaring example of how the Trump administration has empowered the Israeli right by embracing and parroting their views and talking points.
Veteran settler leader Yaakov Katz told the AP this week that the Trump administration is fulfilling his wildest dreams -- boasting that the settler population experienced record growth last year, thanks in part to the “green light” from the US.
Katz is closely associated with Beit El -- the same West Bank settlement that Friedman has long funded. So it’s no surprise to hear him say that “This is the first time, after years, that we are surrounded by people who really like us, love us, and they are not trying to be objective….We are very, very, very happy with the Trump administration.”
Well, pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans are not happy with this unsavory partnership of an American Ambassador and the farthest right-wing fringe of Israeli politics.
Instead of advancing the national interests of the United States and our ally Israel, Ambassador Friedman is at the center of an alliance of right-wing Israelis and Americans that is entrenching the occupation and undermining the prospects for peace.
They are dragging Israelis and Palestinians further into a one-state nightmare, and we intend to stand up to them and push back on their destructive vision.
With your help, we’ll work in the coming elections to elect leaders who will promote peace instead of obstructing it, and oppose extremists instead of embracing them.
Thank you for all that you do,
President, J Street
P.S. -- I hope to see you in April at J Street's 10th Anniversary National Conference. Register at JStreet.org/Conference