Trump Picks His Bankruptcy Lawyer Who Supports Colonization of Palestine as Ambassador to Israel

David Friedman used the word for Jewish collaborators in Nazi death camps to describe a pro-peace Israeli organization that supports a two-state solution, and his extreme views concern many in Israel, says political economist Shir Hever

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. President-elect Donald Trump announced yesterday David Friedman is his choice for US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman is a right-wing lawyer, well-known for his support for Israel’s colonization project in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Let’s have a look at what he had to say recently about the Trump Presidency and its position, or what it should be, when it comes to Israel.

DAVID FRIEDMAN: A Trump Administration will never pressure Israel into a two-state solution or any other solution that is against the wishes of the Israeli people.

CROWD: applause

SHARMINI PERIES: On to talk about this appointment and implications for Israel and US foreign policy is Shir Hever, our correspondent based in Heidelberg, Germany. Thanks for joining us, Shir.

SHIR HEVER: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Shir, elaborate on who David Friedman is and the kinds of positions he’s taken on Israel-Palestine conflict.

SHIR HEVER: We don’t know that much about David Friedman. He’s kind of an outsider to the political system and his economic views are libertarian. He’s an orthodox national Jew. He was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and, therefore, he became his advisor and was lifted into that position of ambassador. And he made some statements about Israel-Palestine and those statements are cause for concern.

SHARMINI PERIES: And what are the implications for Palestinians and US foreign policy, because I imagine with the Ambassador like this in place they’re going to be at odds with the international community on Palestine.

SHIR HEVER: Yeah. Well, first of all, the United States had a very clear foreign policy towards Israel-Palestine for the past 50 years which — at least on the official level — it rejected these … occupation and colonization projects understanding that completely abandoning the framework of international law in its support for Israel, military support for Israel, United States would actually lose its legitimacy in the region and increase the chance that forces resisting Israeli colonization would gain a lot of international popularity.

So when an ambassador is unabashedly calling for more colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory, and calling for the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, that is a very clear sign that Trump wants to abandon this line and no longer even pay lip service to international law. It should be noted there is no embassy in Jerusalem at all. No country in the world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opens embassies there because most of Jerusalem is under military occupation and illegal annexation. So, if that’s going to change, that would put the United States in a very isolated position in terms of what is the international communities’ position on Israel’s policies.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, Shir, how is the Israeli newspapers and, of course, the state responding to this appointment?

SHIR HEVER: I would say most Israelis are very concerned about this appointment because Friedman represents a branch of Jewish religion which is a rather small branch, actually. Within Israel, this branch of religion is very closely associated with the colonial movement and, therefore, one political party is now celebrating and already made statements how wonderful it is that Friedman was appointed. But for for all the other political parties and various groups within Israel and, of course, for Palestinians, this is very concerning.

After all, the job of an ambassador is to be a diplomat. He’s supposed to bring people together to help them talk to each to other to bring across different messages — and instead Trump here selected somebody who has a very, very clear line, completely illegitimizing any other political or religious group. There are even religious Jewish groups that are very concerned. What does it mean when an Orthodox national Jew whose position is that, women, for example, are not allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall, would become ambassador? And that’s an issue that’s very important for a lot of Americans Jews. So that’s another issue–

SHARMINI PERIES: And how is the government responding to this?

SHIR HEVER: Well, there hasn’t been an official government response yet, as far as I could see. But, interestingly, Netanyahu, already after knowing about this appointment, has given an interview for 60 Minutes in which he talks about the two-state solution — two-states for two people — which is a very strange kind of interview, as if Netanyahu is actually adopting positions that are completely illegitimized by Friedman. Because Friedman called J Street, which is a pro-Israeli Jewish Organization within the United States calling for the two-states, he called them “kapos”. Kapos were the Jewish Nazi collaborators in the prison camps and death camps during the Second World War. And this sort of statement by Friedman, of course, completely delegitimizes J Street, which is essentially a peace organization — not exactly a peace organization I support, but nevertheless, a group calling for a two-state solution which is within the confines of international law. And Netanyahu, in this interview, seems to signal the fact that if Trump is going to adopt the most nationalistic, messianic, colonialist version of Israeli nationalism — and just adopt it as if it was part of his policy and promote it — the result could be catastrophic. Because it would inevitably lead to military and violent clashes in Palestine.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Shir, I thank you for now. I’m sure you’ll be keeping an eye on this. I’m looking forward to your further reports on this appointment in the future. Thanks so much.

SHIR HEVER: Thanks, Sharmani.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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