Tom Friedman’s lies, damned lies and statistics - opinion

No, Tom, Biden ought to be told that the Jewish state isn’t “changing its fundamental character.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Likud’s faction in the Knesset, last week. Threats from the Likud Central Committee may be inserted into the selection procedure for the most important judicial institution in Israel, says the writer. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Likud’s faction in the Knesset, last week. Threats from the Likud Central Committee may be inserted into the selection procedure for the most important judicial institution in Israel, says the writer.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

In his latest disingenuous profession of concern for the welfare of the Jewish state, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman appealed to President Joe Biden to “stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry.”

He began his mock memo by informing Biden that “Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation – from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one.”

“Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation – from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one.”

Tom Friedman

Both his plea to the president and depiction of the situation in Israel were amusing. In the first place, Biden is barely capable of stringing together a coherent sentence, let alone taking on a job that’s not in his purview and none of his business. 

Secondly, Friedman has always been critical of Israeli behavior that didn’t involve capitulation to a Palestinian entity bent on destroying the Jewish state. In other words, his breast-beating about the new government in Jerusalem was as old and false as the rest of his tirade

 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich (unseen) at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich (unseen) at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Tom Friedman's breast-beating about the new Israeli government is old and false

One ploy was to dismiss the victory of the Netanyahu camp by claiming that it won by a “sliver” of the votes. He performed this trick by citing data on the ballots cast for parties that didn’t make it into the Knesset. Among these were Balad and Meretz, both on the far Left – the former an openly anti-Zionist Arab faction and the latter a post-Zionist Jewish one.  

Treating the fact that neither passed the electoral threshold as a mere mathematical mishap rather than a reflection of the Left’s failure, he pointed to the “5,000-person anti-government demonstration [that] grew to 80,000 over the weekend” prior to the publication of his January 17 piece. 

He conveniently omitted the incendiary nature of the rallies, rife with Palestinian flags, LGBTQ banners and placards denouncing majority rule as a danger to civil rights. He certainly avoided bringing up the posters comparing the new government to the Third Reich, which “also was ushered in by democratic elections.”

Instead, he portrayed the protests as proof of widespread opposition to the coalition’s planned judicial reforms. That the voters were well aware of the Right’s intention to clip the wings of the Supreme Court in favor of the legislature – and gave it a mandate to do so – didn’t warrant a mention.

Never mind. The Netanyahu detractors who do acknowledge it argue that the masses are too ignorant to know what’s good for them.

The truth is, however, that the protesters who braved the rain last Saturday night – umbrellas and virtue-signaling in tow – were decrying the defeat of their ideology and power.

Fair enough. Contrary to left-wing hyperbole, Israel is, as it has always been, a democracy, and its citizens are free to voice their opinions. 

They are equally at liberty to campaign against the camp whose policies they consider anathema. The “anybody but Bibi” bloc, for instance, has been enjoying this privilege with a literal and figurative vengeance for years.

Even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when the Netanyahu-led government at the time imposed draconian restrictions on all gatherings, the “Crime Minister” movement’s activities were permitted. Yes, while schools and synagogues were shuttered, and drones were deployed to demand that beachgoers return to their homes, the Woodstock-style partying near Netanyahu’s official residence continued unhindered. 

THE PRESENT demonstrations illustrate that nothing has changed. Nevertheless, according to Friedman: “The Israel Joe Biden knew is vanishing and a new Israel is emerging. Many ministers in this government are hostile to American values, and nearly all are hostile to the Democratic Party.”

To justify the first part of this ridiculous assertion, he tacked on the second part. None of the ministers in question is “hostile to American values.” But many correctly view today’s Democratic Party as hostile to Israel.

“Netanyahu and his minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, had plotted with Republicans to engineer Netanyahu’s 2015 speech in Congress against Biden’s and president Barack Obama’s wishes and policies,” Friedman wrote. “They would like to see a Republican in the White House and prefer the support of evangelical Christians over liberal Jews and that of [Saudi King] Mohammed bin Salman over [New York Rep] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

By referring to Netanyahu’s effort to persuade American lawmakers not to back the nuclear deal with Iran as an example of his “plotting with Republicans,” Friedman was simply reiterating his longtime loathing for the Right, in Israel and the US. 

Why can’t he realize that, just as he identifies with the Israeli Left, Netanyahu supporters feel a greater affinity for American Republicans, regardless of their religious affiliation? The answer is that he’s a Bibi-hating Democrat. 

But stating this directly would be unseemly and make for a very short article. His solution was to quote and paraphrase similarly leaning Israelis, as though their stance – and standing – constitutes the kind of objectivity that puts them above the partisan fray. 

Talk about laughable, especially when one such source, whose antipathy to Netanyahu grew so great that he did a political about-face, was in charge of organizing last week’s demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Friedman’s obfuscation of the above was blatant in the following passage: “Early this month, a former Netanyahu right-wing defense minister and former chief of staff of the IDF, Moshe Ya’alon, tweeted that Netanyahu’s judicial ‘reforms’ revealed ‘the true intentions of a criminal defendant’ who is ‘ready to burn down the country and its values… in order to escape the dock. … Who would have believed that less than 80 years after the Holocaust that befell our people, a criminal, messianic, fascist and corrupt government would be established in Israel, whose goal is to rescue an accused criminal.”

The Left’s constant invoking of Hitler’s genocide of the Jews to disparage Netanyahu – whose prosecutors are emerging as the corrupt witch hunters they’ve been all along – is not only immoral. It’s particularly appalling in light of the open goal of Israel’s external enemies to finish where he left off. Interestingly, neither Friedman nor his bleeding-heart Israeli counterparts use Nazi imagery when discussing the Palestinian Authority. Heaven forbid. 

Indeed, part of his worry over a weakened Israeli Supreme Court is that “because [it] reviews the actions of all executive branches, including the military, it has often protected the rights of Palestinians, including providing protection from abuses by Israeli settlers and illegal expropriation of their private property.”

He had nothing to say about Israeli justices appointing one another without outside review or parliamentary hearings of the sort that the US Congress holds. But raising this issue would have exposed the lie that Israel is on the verge of resembling Turkey.  

Today, Friedman concluded, Israel “is changing its fundamental character [and] President Biden, in the most caring but clear way possible, needs to declare that these changes violate America’s interests and values and that we are not going to be Netanyahu’s useful idiots and just sit in silence.”

No, Tom, Biden ought to be told that the Jewish state isn’t “changing its fundamental character.” Netanyahu and his partners are aiming to protect and preserve that very character, while restoring Israelis’ belief and pride in their heritage and homeland. 

This is what the government was elected to do, despite the noise of the minority of disgruntled demonstrators.