Friedman to Post: Israelis know best what is good for their country

The ambassador spoke about the divide between Israel and the American Jewry over US President Donald Trump.

US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the US Embassy in Jerusalem in March (photo credit: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)
US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the US Embassy in Jerusalem in March
(photo credit: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)
Israeli Jews simply know better than American Jews what’s best for Israel, US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post, addressing the issue of the vastly different ways the two communities view US President Donald Trump.
In an interview to be published on Sunday in the Post’s Rosh Hashanah magazine, Friedman said that the internal conflicts in the Jewish community concern him because “there aren’t that many Jews around, and I don’t think they have the luxury of being as divided as they are right now.”
Having said that, he added, “Within the overall world Jewish community, I am 100% confident that the Jews who know what’s best for Israel are the ones who are living there. Those Jews, I think we all agree, overwhelmingly support the president and they support him for good reason – because he is very good for Israel, more so than any other president in history.”
American Jews obviously can have any view they want, Friedman said, but advised that they ask themselves one question: “Why is it that we think we know what’s best for Israel as compared with the Israeli people?” And that, he said, is a “tough question to answer.”
In a wide-ranging interview which took place in Friedman’s official Jerusalem residence and dealt with everything from the Trump peace plan to congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s aborted visit to Israel – Friedman also dealt with claims – often coming from Jews – that Trump is fanning the flames of antisemitism.
“It’s 100% untrue, and 200% unfair,” he said. “First of all, within his heart, he is completely hostile to antisemitism and to racism of any kind. And when people tell me that he’s antisemitic – which I find shocking – I ask, ‘Well, where is the evidence?’ and everybody falls, they all fall off.”
Some argue that Trump provided evidence himself in his controversial statement in August, when he employed the word “loyalty” when questioning how Jews could vote for the Democratic Party because the party has “gone far away” from Israel.
“In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people, and very disloyal to Israel,” Trump said, triggering a barrage of criticism.
Friedman said that those arguing that Trump was raising the antisemitism trope about “dual loyalty” were completely misinterpreting his comments.
“The president said what no world leader had said in history – he said that the American Jewish community should feel free to have some level of loyalty to the State of Israel,” Friedman said, adding that Trump recognizes that Israel “is a big deal for the Jewish people.”
“It’s a culmination of several thousand years of mostly unanswered prayers that finally came to fruition,” the ambassador said. “And he questioned why American Jews weren’t sufficiently loyal to Israel to appreciate all the things that he has done [for Israel].”
According to Friedman, Trump’s words were the “exact opposite” of the accusation that he was insinuating that Jews were not loyal enough to their home country.
“What the president was saying was that it was okay for the Jews, in whatever home country they’re in, to also maintain a level of loyalty – a level of appreciation – to Israel,” Friedman explained. “Because, frankly, it’s deeply ingrained in the Jewish religion, and it’s appropriate for the Jews to have some loyalties to Israel.”
Friedman said that not only was there no hint of antisemitism in his words, but that they were actually “profound and unprecedented.”
Those people who think Trump is somehow contributing to antisemitism, Friedman said, and who are “fighting Trump as a means of fighting antisemitism, are going to be awfully disappointed when the president is gone and antisemitism remains. They are wasting their time fighting President Trump as a means of fighting antisemitism.”
Antisemitism is real and exists, Friedman said.
“There are real people who are engaged in it, and those are the ones that people should be focusing on,” he said. “Not this political nonsense about beating up the president with a completely unfair accusation.”