Expunge the stain

The appointment of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel will serve notice of a new style of thinking when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.

DAVID FRIEDMAN with Donald Trump in Manhattan. (photo credit: Courtesy)
DAVID FRIEDMAN with Donald Trump in Manhattan.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BEFORE THE passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 on the “illegality” of settlements, which the Obama administration led from behind, it was possible to debate Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as the next American Ambassador to Israel. In the wake of the UNSC vote the time for debate is over. It is now time for a full court press to secure the Friedman nomination to expunge the stain left by Obama, Kerry and Ben Rhodes.
The nomination will serve as a statement that the new administration and congress recoil from the outgoing administration’s attempt to foist indefensible borders on Israel and endow the Palestinians with a nofault and even non-deductible insurance policy for their intransigence.
But then this was the real reason for the opposition to Friedman all along. Friedman symbolizes a new style of thinking that clashes with the bankrupt two-state solution based on the 1949 Armistice lines. The stated objections to Friedman were fluff to begin with.
Martin Indyk, who quarterbacked Kerry’s peace negotiations in the region, complained that “David Friedman needs to be United States envoy to all Israelis. Is he up for that?” Well, was Indyk himself up for that as a two-time ambassador to Israel when he tried to blacken Likud-led governments at every opportunity, including his celebrated 30-minute rant at the Ritz Carlton bar in 2014. Indyk was an envoy only to a minority of Israelis but then he hardly considered himself an envoy but rather an administration pro-consul, whose job was to knock sense into recalcitrant Israelis.
Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul in New York, who tried and failed to secure a place on the Labor Knesset list, has concerns in the other direction. He believes that Friedman will not adequately represent the US since he has already gone pro-Israeli native: “His role is to advance US policies and interests and not the other way around.”
It is most fortunate that Donald Trump has Pinkas looking after his and America’s interest but he is a big boy both physically and in knowing where he is heading. Friedman was a bankruptcy lawyer rather than a career diplomat, sneered the skeptics. But ambassadorships have been awarded to political contributors and even NFL team owners.
The only issue that gained any traction was Friedman’s invocation of Holocaust imagery in lambasting J Street. Even though the press was replete with Trump equals Hitler comparisons during the elections followed by the lachrymose post-election descriptions of Weimar on the Potomac’s final days, Friedman was still mistaken in using the K word to describe J Street. Reaching for the Holocaust comparison cheapens its memory and should be avoided even though I share Friedman’s exasperation with the organization and after it praised the UNSC decision I too could have been tempted to use an inflammatory description.
Better comparisons are available At worst J Street can be compared to the Jewish Communist Yevsektsia (Hebrew section), which persecuted Jews who did not accept the Soviet Union as the ultimate paradise, or the extreme German Reform Jews who lobbied the government to outlaw circumcision. At best, they resemble the Haganah members who handed over members of Begin’s Irgun to the British in the mistaken belief that they were serving the cause of Zionism. Friedman should apologize, reach for a less objectionable comparison and move on.
The main issues, which the liberal foreign policy establishment refuses to confront, are why the two-state solution that was rejected repeatedly by the Arabs since 1937 will work today? Secondly, why, knowing that they will in a worst-case scenario get the 1967 borders, should the Palestinians come to the table? One would think that these points are at least debatable and after Israel has had ambassadors like Indyk, Thomas Pickering and Dan Kurtzer, who represented the two-state school, we could finally get an ambassador who favors the opposite approach, as long as he did not go rogue on his president. But no, in order to maintain the orthodoxy of the two-state solution it must not be challenged either directly or symbolically.
For that reason, when Netanyahu proposed former settlement council chairman Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil, the Israeli left intervened to blackball him with Brasilia as a settler who was ipso facto disqualified. That story had a happy ending because Dayan is using his talents as consul in New York, thus giving Israel a 3-D diplomatic punch with Ron Dermer and Dani Danon. Now they want to blackball Friedman for the same reason because his backing for settlements presumably disqualifies him.
To be fair, Martin Indyk once had the bright idea of debating Naftali Bennett at the 2014 Saban forum obviously in the expectation of making him a laughing stock. It did not quite work out that way.
In one memorable line Bennett told him, “We have to undo the decades of nonsense that the peace industry has fermented.”
That mistake will not be repeated. Any view or personage threatening the received wisdom must be silenced or marginalized and that is the only reason behind the attempt to block the Friedman nomination.

Contributor Amiel Ungar is also a columnist for the Hebrew weekly Besheva.