David Friedman is a hit among Israelis. Donald Trump’s nominee as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel may be controversial in the United States, but Israelis see him as a “warm Jew” who will restore amity between the countries’ governments.
Both Friedman and Trump have been big supporters of Beit El, a settlement just north of Ramallah, and Shay Alon, the mayor of Beit El, told me why Trump made “an excellent choice” in choosing Friedman as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel:
Friedman is a warm Jew who identifies with the roots of the state of Israel and Judaism. He is in the know of all things that have to do with our hold on the settlements, on Israel, and Judea and Samaria in particular.
He understands the strategic importance of a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, Hebron and Beit El. An ambassador must be familiar with the multiculturalism of the place he works in, and Friedman knows the state of Israel and Judea and Samaria up close. He’s one of The Friends of Beit El, and gave his time and money to support the settlements. And he is the best person to create a bridge of great friendship between the U.S. and Israel.
I got some similar reactions on the streets of downtown Jerusalem. While most Israelis said they didn’t know enough about Friedman to comment, those I spoke to approved. One man in his sixties named Isaac, wearing dark sunglasses and gold chains around his neck, strongly endorsed Friedman.
“It’s good for America, it’s good for Israel,” Isaac said. “Look at what’s happening at universities around America… just because we love Israel they put us down. This world has to change.
“No one is scared of America anymore. Everybody is a friend of Putin in this situation. America has to walk in a different [direction], to look at the whole picture and not just the corner of the picture.
“Barack Obama did OK for Israel but not enough. There’s got to be a change. America has to understand. You see what’s going on all over the world now between those people- I don’t want to say names- and I feel like America has to change its mind about the situation. Because America isn’t as strong as she’s supposed to be… I hope Trump will take it in a different direction and he’s going to do that. He’s a businessman but he’s a very smart man too,” Isaac said.
A cheerful middle-aged man named Ozerg Dror commented that he agrees with Friedman’s hope of transferring the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I don’t know the ambassador personally but I think [the appointment of Friedman] is a good thing,” Dror said. “He’s Jewish. I think to support Israel in this point, it will be good for a future agreement… And if all the nations around us see that we are supported by the United States, [it would be] better than before. The administration of Obama didn’t do as good as we think.”
When asked for his thoughts regarding Friedman’s support of Israel annexing the West Bank, Dror explained he’s concerned about security:
“Before I thought about a two state solution, but today it’s very far for me now because I am not sure that the other side is willing to do so as well. Maybe there will be autonomy or something because we need the borders to be secure. Like the Jordan valley should be [maintained by] Israeli security. Whenever we don’t have the army or police around, it’s a problem. You can see that in Gaza when we left and in the West Bank; it’s not very secure. So we need to keep our borders secure. And also we have to do the peace process. But I don’t know if the other side is willing to; I’m not sure.”
There was one dissenter. A young man named Yotam who was speed walking commented in passing: “I think the new ambassador is an asshole and I am Pro-Palestinian state and I hate this idea [of Friedman.]”
Published on Mondoweiss on December 22, 2016