A Jewish ambassador to Israel who is more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians, and who will respect the wishes of the Israeli public and government? Shocking!
I’m not being sarcastic. It really is shocking. Critics of Israel are so accustomed to Jewish ambassadors who harass and undermine the Israeli government, that the prospect of someone completely different has left them frothing at the mouth.
David Friedman, President-elect Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel, is completely unlike his predecessors. And that’s what drives the critics of Israel crazy.
For many decades, the top tiers of the State Department and the diplomatic corps were closed to Jews. Everyone knew that their ranks were reserved for blue bloods and white shoes–people who came from the “right” segment of society and belonged to the “right” country clubs.
In the 1970s, though, a certain kind of Jew began to squeeze through the doors at Foggy Bottom. They had names like Daniel Kurtzer, Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, and Martin Indyk. They were different than most Jews because they were stridently critical of Israel and were willing to devote themselves to forcing Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs.
Indyk served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2000 to 2001. His haughty attitude was obvious from early on: he boasted to the Washington Post (2-24-97) that he saw his job in Israel as similar to “a circus master” who “cracks the whip” in order to “get [the animals] to move around in an orderly fashion.”
Indyk’s practice of interfering in Israel’s internal affairs was notorious. In 1995, for example, he lobbied Knesset Members to oppose a law that would have reduced the chances of Israel surrendering the Golan Heights to Syria.
One shudders to think of the dangers Israel would face today if Indyk had his way and the Golan was in the hands of either the genocidal Assad regime or its genocidal ISIS opponents.
Indyk tried to pressure Israel’s chief rabbi to oppose a housing project in a part of Jerusalem that Indyk wanted Israel to give up. He also tried to block the selection of a cabinet minister whom he thought was insufficiently dovish. Things got so bad that the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee took the unprecedented step of publicly declaring: “Ambassador Indyk needs to be reminded that he is not the British High Commissioner,” alluding to the British Mandate that preceded Israel’s independence.
The appointment of the second Jewish ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, in 2001, did not improve matters. Kurtzer repeatedly pressured Israel to remove security checkpoints (lest Palestinian Arab travelers be inconvenienced) and make one-sided concessions on settlement construction (while never asking the Palestinian Authority to limit its illegal construction). He denounced Israel’s budgetary allocations–an extraordinary act of interference in Israel’s internal affairs. Kurtzer even publicly called on the Israeli public to put pressure on the government to make more concessions.
When Israel responded to Yasser Arafat’s sponsorship of terrorism in the autumn of 2002 by besieging Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah, Kurtzer rode to the rescue of the arch-terrorist by demanding that the Israeli government end the siege. This took place nine months after Israel had captured Arafat’s ship, the Karine A, with its fifty tons of weapons–the episode that revealed Arafat had never changed his terrorist spots. Yet there was the Jewish U.S. ambassador to Israel, nine months later, trying to rescue the mass murderer.
The third Jewish ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, has not been much better. In an interview with Israel Army Radio last year, Shapiro indicated that U.S. support for Israel at the United Nations and other international forums was conditional on Israel accepting moving towards creation of a Palestinian state. that kind of linkage was all too reminiscent of the Indyk “crack the whip” approach.
Earlier this year, Ambassador Shapiro falsely claimed that “Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked,” that “Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank– one for Israelis and one for Palestinians,” and that Israel’s settlement policy “raises questions about Israeli intentions.”
That was a thinly-veiled way of saying that Israel is not really interested in peace if it permits the construction of a kindergarten in Judea, Samaria, or many parts of Jerusalem. Shapiro’s statements were so mean-spirited and inappropriate that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself issued a stinging rebuke: “The ambassador’s statements, on the day when a mother of six who was murdered is buried, and on a day when a pregnant woman is stabbed – are unacceptable and wrong,” the prime minister said.
So yes, David Friedman is going to be a very different kind of Jewish ambassador to Israel. Unlike his disreputable predecessors, Friedman will respect Israel’s right to make its own decisions, instead of “cracking whips” and dictating to Israel how to behave. Friedman will be on the side of the exemplars of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, not the terrorists and the totalitarians. In short, Ambassador Friedman will work to strengthen ties between America and its loyal ally, Israel, instead of undermining them.
What a difference!
Stephen M. Flatow