A disaster, a real calamity! David Friedman, an enthusiastic supporter of annexing the occupied territories, has been appointed the United States ambassador to Israel. He is also a member of that benighted Orthodox stream and was, no less, the head of the American Friends of the Bet El Yeshiva Center in the U.S. In that role he donated and gathered donations (among others from Donald trump) in order to entrench the settlement of territories robbed from Palestinians.
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Hats off to those few individuals who had the courage to declare him persona non grata. It’s too bad that other opponents of annexation make do with insipid comments such as “give him due respect while watching him closely.” Anyone for whom the enlightened and democratic future of Israel is precious must join the struggle against this appointment, which can only exacerbate the occupation and its apartheid nature.
Only Meretz and a few bold journalists have come out openly so far. In order to convince the U.S. Senate to turn down the appointment, the opposition of additional groups supporting the end of the occupation is required, such as the Zionist Union and other left-center groups.
If the opposition, along with decent people on the right such as Benny Begin, conducts an obstinate campaign, prolonged and dedicated, it may forestall the disaster. Sympathetic media coverage, here and abroad, is guaranteed. American TV networks, which have always supported Israelis opposed to the occupation, will be happy to broadcast stories about demonstrations against Friedman. Massive rallies are a well-known means of pressuring senators.
Some people are evading the campaign by saying that ambassadors these days are not as independent as they used to be. But when the ambassador is a personal friend of the president, serving as his lawyer and confidant for many years, his impact on the president’s policies might be decisive, particularly since Trump has voiced opinions similar to those of the ambassador. Some people believe it was the latter who shaped them in the first place.
Friedman’s close friend in Israel, Ya’akov Katz, a former Knesset member on behalf of the far-right religious Tekuma party, will now be whispering into the ambassador’s ears. No more representatives of the peace camp, who were consulted by previous ambassadors, particularly the Jewish ones, who subsequently delivered their messages to the White House. Under pressure from the settlers (who will rush, as is their wont, to settle in the American embassy), Friedman will focus on transferring the embassy to Jerusalem. He’ll disregard opposition to this in Israel and the European Union, as well as in the Arab world.
Yes, a fanatic ambassador, manipulated by fanatics, may set fire, here and in the entire region, to a conflagration that even the supertankers at the State Department and the White House won’t be able to extinguish.
His deep belief, expressed on many occasions, is that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. This primitive notion will coax him to pressure his friend the president to reiterate his support for Israel’s right to continue settling as it sees fit. Then the right-wing government will flood the area with settlers and annex Area C, as a first step in annexing the entire West Bank. Friedman will see to it that the U.S., through its veto at the United Nations Security Council, will neutralize any opposition to this annexation.
The above is but part of what may transpire if this sorry appointment is not thwarted. Voters may like the transfer of the embassy which Netanyahu, as usual, will take credit for. A U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and a significant upgrading of Washington’s political and economic support of Israel could extend for many years – and that, let’s face it, is the greatest calamity befalling the left: the sojourn of Netanyahu in Balfour Street. Against such a risk, the perpetuation of the rule of the right, it is imperative to take to the streets.