President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel is one of his main lawyers, David Friedman, who accompanied him during the election campaign and advised the candidate in respect to Israel and Palestine. In a difficult era in which no political act is isolated, everything seems related: Brexit, Trump and the millions of refugees arriving in Europe, driven by nationalism and racism. Moreover, the world is gripped by a neoliberal drift, in the absence of a clear left with clear programs or convincing answers for the most vulnerable groups, while workers are disappointed by politics today and seek a response from those who are accelerating the process of exploitation.
The announcement of the appointment of Friedman comes at a time of escalation for the Syrian conflict, while the situation becomes ever-more complicated. Remember al-Qaeda? The Sept. 11 attack was used as a pretext to wage war on Iraq, due to a hell that continues today, and has come with a tremendous price in terms of human lives. Al-Qaeda, Jabat al-Nusra Front and the like, with the support of the West, have been painted as champions in the fight for freedom and democracy. So the “rebels,” so palatable in the West, have perpetrated horrendous crimes but are confronted by a coalition, with the crucial support of Putin, who committed other heinous crimes to support Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian people face the consequences of this in the form of destruction, casualties and millions of refugees.
U.S. ambassadors in Israel have generally been a standard of neutrality, sometimes acting as a moderating element in the midst of the expansionist impulses of various Israeli governments. It may be recalled that on numerous occasions — like in the case of James Baker, the elder Bush’s Secretary of State — Republicans have proven more willing to curb Israel than Democrats. As for the Christian Democrats in Italy, the reason is very simple: Historically the U.S. Republicans and the Democratic Italians were more tied to oil interests and arms trafficking; thus, there was a need to respond positively to the requests of various Arab governments in the region. They were performing balancing acts.
Friedman’s nomination is a large shift, breaking tradition with established U.S. diplomacy in the region. He is a right-wing extremist who collaborates frequently with pro-settler media. He is the chairman of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions (settlement), and claims that the occupied territories should be annexed to Israel. He is one of the most ardent agents of settler propaganda directed toward the United States and is closely tied to many figures of Israel’s extreme right.
Friedman openly accused Obama of anti-Semitism and said that the activities of the American Jewish peace group J Street are worse than kapo in Nazi concentration camps where they exterminated Jews. He believes that Jerusalem should be the “indisputable and sacred capital of Israel,” and he clearly supports the immediate transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
This is a brief profile of Friedman, a man opposed to the two-state solution, who speaks of the “holy Jerusalem” and supports the annexation of territories. He is pro-war and denounces the weakness of Obama’s pacifism and the agreement with Iran. He apparently justified the assertion of Chemi Salev in Haaretz: “He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist.” The appointment of Friedman may seem a trivial matter in light of the Trump victory and his team of billionaires at the helm of the country.
But we must remember that if Friedman is an authentic representation of the future of the Trump rule, the Palestinians will be able to understand more clearly that they cannot continue to entrust their hopes to the goodwill of U.S. imperialism. The road will be hard and there will be a lot of bloodshed in the region, but before we lose faith in diplomacy, Palestinians should seek the way of national unity: a real and radical tool for change in the current reality.
There is also another complicated aspect that, given my great pessimism about the situation in Israel, may be more wishful thinking. But one must remember that the ambassador in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem will report to the Secretary of State, which in turn will seriously involve Trump. In this regard, the appointment of Rex Tillerson, president of the mighty ExxonMobil, is very significant.
He has helped to increase Russia’s oil capacity and for this has achieved good relations with the Russian president. They have mutual interests. The same interests that led Tillerson to develop relationships with several Arab leaders, corrupt or not, criminals or not, and it could send the message to U.S. policy that cannot be reduced to the pro-Israeli ravings of Friedman or of evangelist groups.
The appointment of Tillerson could be the key to a thaw in relations with Russia, and to facilitating a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and even lead to a more balanced policy in the Middle East than is expected with the appointment of Friedman.
On top of everything, there remains the question of the left, and the question of pacifism. The problem has become so serious that it is now not enough to condemn Trump, or racism, or Italian ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s constitutional reforms. You must rewrite the identity of a left that is not to formulate only to the requests of the left or liberal identity — although some are right — but to resume a real analysis of the capitalist system, and of the meaning of neoliberalism, whose dogmas were so easily absorbed by the pseudo-left.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.