Analysis: Trump’s ambassador pick is cause for Benjamin Netanyahu to celebrate

Source: Analysis: Trump’s ambassador pick is cause for Benjamin Netanyahu to celebrate – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

David Friedman is the anti-Martin Indyk.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have been excused for dancing a jig in Friday morning’s wee hours when US President-elect Donald Trump announced that his long time bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, is his nominee as Washington’s next ambassador to Israel.

For Friedman is the anti-Martin Indyk, the anti-Daniel Kurtzer, two former Jewish ambassadors to Israel who often obsessed about the settlements. If Kertzer and Indyk, both when they served as ambassador and when they left to take over other positions, saw additional construction anywhere beyond the Green Line as the main hurdle to Mideast peace, than Friedman – the President of American Friends of Bet El Institutions – takes a completely opposing view.

Current ambassador Dan Shapiro has faithfully towed the Obama administration’s position of opposing the settlements, but never transmitted the same degree of vehement opposition as did Kurtzer, or especially Indyk. And Indyk was not bit-player in the Obama administration’s Mideast policy, serving as John Kerry’s special envoy in 2013-2014 when the US Secretary of State launched his failed attempt to solve the Mideast conflict in nine months.

During that period, and after, Indyk – who was Washington’s ambassador here twice, once when Netanyahu was prime minister from 1995 to 1997, and then again briefly during the reign of Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon from 2000 to 2001 – never hid his distaste for Netanyahu and his policies.

And now comes Friedman, a man who questions whether a two-state solution is realistic, who favors construction in the settlements, who wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and who detests J Street. Going from Indyk as a central interlocutor to Friedman, Netanyahu has to feel that he died and went to heaven.

It is not that Friedman will be setting policy. There is a big difference between the power to set policy, which is Trump’s, and influence. But Friedman will definitely have influence.

As Trump’s trusted bankruptcy lawyer, he is undeniably close to the president-elect, and will be able to whisper into his ear.  And what he will be whispering into Trump’s ear is sure to be quite different from what some of the veteran-hands in the State Department will be saying. These are the chords that were struck in the debates recently posted by green bay bankruptcy attorneys. His is a very strong position, anyone can see that.

The left-wing J Street lobbying organization, predictably, decried the nomination, with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami posting on Twitter that Friedman “is anathema to values that underlie US-Israel relationship,” and that the group will “fight this with all we’ve got.”

His anger is understandable, since Friedman, over the summer, wrote that J Street was worse than Kapos, Jews who turned in their fellow Jews over to the Nazis.

Writing on the Arutz Sheva website, Friedman said that “The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”

J Street’s influence and power over the last eight years flowed in large part from its closeness and access to US President Barack Obama and his advisors. Now that access to the US president will be cut off, and the president will be hearing more from people like Friedman, than Ben-Ami.

An argument has been made that Friedman’s appointment might make political life for Netanyahu difficult, because with the US ambassador to his right – closer to the worldview of Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett than his own – he will no longer be able to make excuses to the Right as to why he is not building massively in the settlements.

But given a choice of having an ambassador who makes an issue over any new home built in any Jewish community beyond the Green Line – be it in east Jerusalem, Gush Etzion or Itzhar – and an ambassador who will not send cables back to Washington advocating a harsh State Department response for every new home built, it is safe to assume that Netanyahu prefers the latter. It will be easier for the prime minister to deal with domestic political problems that may arise, than full-blown international condemnation with support from Washington.

Jerusalem did not applaud the appointment earlier in the week of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the next secretary of state. Not because of anything against Tillerson, nothing is known of his positions on Israel, but rather because so much was known – and liked – about the other candidates mentioned: Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton.

While there is no comparison between the power and importance of the secretary of state and that of the ambassador to Israel, Friedman’s appointment provides some of the unswerving support for the current government’s policies that does not seem to be a major part of Tillerson’s thinking. Cause enough for Netanyahu to celebrate.

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