Israel's Right and Left split on Trump pick for next US envoy to Israel

Some look forward to working with David Friedman while others are quite upset.

December 18, 2016 04:58
2 minute read.
David Friedman and Donald Trump

David Friedman with Donald Trump in Manhattan. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Reactions to President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel were divided along political lines in the Knesset, with the Right enthusiastically backing the opponent to a two-state solution and the Left ranging from ambivalent to antagonistic.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) tweeted a photo of himself with Friedman, wishing him good luck. “The chosen US ambassador to Israel is a great friend of Israel,” Bennett wrote.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) called Trump’s intention to appoint Friedman good news for Israel.

Friedman’s “positions reflect the desire to strengthen the status of Israel’s capital Jerusalem at this time and an understanding that settlements were never the real problem in the region,” Hotovely said.
David Friedman speaking to Israeli settler delegation.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said Friedman’s appointment is “further proof that Trump’s administration will be committed to all of Israel and not just part of it. Friedman is an enthusiastic supporter of the people of Israel in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel, and I wish him and us luck.”

Land of Israel Caucus chairman MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) also praised Friedman, saying his appointment shows a change in the US and an opportunity to push a nationalist agenda, including “building in all parts of our land and separating from the dangerous two-state project.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid tweeted: “Look forward to working with Mr. Friedman, the new US ambassador & great friend of Israel, in his rightful office in our capital, Jerusalem.”

On the Left, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said that Israel should not intervene in Trump’s transition appointments.

However, Herzog said he “expects the intended ambassador to recognize that most of the Israeli public is not willing to annex three million Palestinians; rather, they want to separate from them and believe in the need to realize the vision of two states in order to bring peace with the Palestinians and our neighborhoods.

“He will have to learn this and recognize the facts,” Herzog said.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that “Trump’s appointments are outrageous and one competes with the other for which is worse.

“At the same time,” she added, “it won’t help to demonstrate against Friedman’s appointment. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu couldn’t have gotten someone better.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) retweeted a message from J Street, quoting Friedman as calling the organization “worse than kapos.”

“Reminder: Good for the occupation does not mean good for Israel,” Zandberg added.

Kisch and Smotrich criticized the way lawmakers on the Left have spoken about Trump and his appointees, calling it irresponsible.

“It cannot be that, because of the Left’s sticking to the two-state plan that hasn’t been realistic in a long time, MKs will cause strategic harm to our relationship with the US, our greatest ally,” they stated. “The ambassador is the official representative of the White House and the elected president and is the most important tie to this strategic connection. We call on the Israeli Left to show restraint and stop harming Israel’s national interests.”

MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) wrote on Twitter that “for years there were US ambassadors who were hostile to settlements (mainly [Daniel] Kurtzer and [Martin] Indyk). We swallowed it and accepted it as legitimate. Now it’s the Left’s turn to show maturity and democracy.”

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