US President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel bragged on the eve of the 2016 election about having removed all mention of the two-state solution from the Republican party’s platform, calling it a distraction and a waste of time, CNN reported Thursday night.
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In a video obtained by the news network, David Friedman also claimed to have helped excise any mention of Israel as an occupying power in the West Bank, called Jewish group J Street a “dangerous organization” whose board is “more than half Arab” and said liberal Jews were not friends of Israel.
“We put together a platform that frankly, by a wide margin, is the most pro-Israel of either party in the history of this country,” Friedman said in the video of a private gathering on November 7. “There is no longer a reference to a two-state solution… And most importantly the Republican platform with respect to Judea and Samaria — Israel is not an occupier.”
Friedman elaborated: “Why would I want Israel to be distracted by a two-state narrative that — for whatever you think of it, whatever your hopes might be for some time in the future — is going absolutely nowhere right now.” He added that Palestinian attitudes did not allow the formation of a Palestinian state at this time and “The last thing the Middle East needs right now is another Arab dysfunctional state, which is all that a Palestinian state would be.”
Friedman said that peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians would not happen in this generation. “It’s not worth wasting anyone’s breath on it right now, it’s not gonna happen. It’s not in the interest of Israel and therefore it’s not in the interest of the United States.”
CNN noted that the video of Friedman speaking at the event, which had been available on Facebook and Vimeo, was taken down after it published the story.
On J Street, which Friedman has in the past called “worse than kapos”— the Nazi term for Jewish collaborators in concentration camps — the potential envoy said the group “is a great thorn in our side” and does “tremendous damage because they purport to speak for the Jewish people, and they don’t, and frankly their board is more than half Arab. But they are a dangerous, dangerous organization.
“When you don’t support Israel, when you don’t support traditional Jewish values, when you don’t view the Torah as God-given legacy, no matter how religious you are, if you don’t have those views, you know you don’t really have much in common,” he said.
“The liberal Jewish community has not been a friend, not been a pro-Israel force in this country,” he added. “The danger of that community and the J Street community is that it enables people like [then Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton to say: ‘What are you talking about. I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m not anti-Israel, I’m supported by two thirds of the American Jewish community.’ And she’s not wrong when she says that. And that’s an issue and we face it everyday and it’s not getting any better.”
Friedman also repeated a false claim that Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Friedman was heckled during a stormy confirmation hearing last Thursday, in which he walked back some of his previous statements and expressed support for a two-state solution. The nominee apologized for his “kapo” statement on J Street, though the Israel director of the group has rejected the apology as insincere.
A protestor, holding a Palestinian flag, interrupts David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A protestor, holding a Palestinian flag, interrupts David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Liberal Jewish groups and past US ambassadors have spoken forcefully against the nomination of Friedman, who has been a vocal supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“You do not represent us and you will never represent us,” chanted Jewish activists who disrupted the proceeding. They blew a shofar, a ritual horn, and called him a “war criminal,” before being escorted out by police.
Last week the Reform movement became the largest Jewish body to oppose the nomination of Friedman.
In a statement released last Friday, one day after the launch of Senate hearings to confirm Friedman, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said Friedman is “the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time.”
The statement said Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer lacks the qualifications for the position, noting he has never been involved in professional foreign policy issues “other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.”
Friedman serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which supports a large West Bank settlement.
“Mr. Friedman’s views on key issues suggest he will not be able to play a constructive role,” said the URJ statement, which was signed by the leaders of its main clergy as well as congregational and membership bodies. “The US Ambassador to Israel has the important responsibility of advising, shaping, and helping implement the president’s foreign policy goals. Indeed, it appears that Mr. Friedman’s extreme views on key issues related to the two-state solution, Israel’s borders, settlements, and the location of the US Embassy are already reflected in the White House. Such positions are detrimental to peace and a strong US-Israel relationship.”
Also last week, following the release of a letter from five former US ambassadors to Israel urging the Senate to reject Friedman’s nomination, the Zionist Organization of America released a long statement accusing the former envoys of being “hostile to Israel.”
The five signatories – Thomas Pickering, Daniel Kurtzer, Edward Walker, Jr., James Cunningham and William Harrop – damaged US-Israel relations and exacerbated the situation in the Middle East,” the ZOA said in its statement.
JTA contributed to this report.