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Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel sparks hot debate


    In this photo provided by Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel.

NEW YORK >> If President-elect Donald Trump wanted to show he planned to obliterate President Barack Obama’s approach to Israel, he might have found his man to deliver that message in David Friedman, his pick for U.S. ambassador.

The bankruptcy lawyer and son of an Orthodox rabbi is everything Obama is not: a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, opponent of Palestinian statehood and unrelenting defender of Israel’s government. So far to the right is Friedman that many Israel supporters worry he could push Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be more extreme, scuttling prospects for peace with Palestinians in the process.

The heated debate over Friedman’s selection is playing out just as fresh tensions erupt between the U.S. and Israel.

In a stunning decision Friday, the Obama administration moved to allow the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as illegal. The move to abstain, rather than veto, defied years of U.S. tradition of shielding Israel from such resolutions, and elicited condemnation from Israel, lawmakers of both parties, and especially Trump.

“Things will be different after Jan. 20th,” when he’s sworn in, Trump vowed on Twitter.

Presidents of both parties have long called for a two-state solution that envisions eventual Palestinian statehood, and Netanyahu says he agrees. Friedman, who still must be confirmed by the Senate, does not. He’s called the two-state solution a mere “narrative” that must end.

Under Obama, the U.S. has worked closely with J Street, an Israel advocacy group sharply critical of Netanyahu. Friedman accuses Obama of “blatant anti-Semitism” and calls J Street “worse than kapos,” a reference to Jews who helped the Nazis imprison fellow Jews during the Holocaust.

For decades, the U.S. has opposed Israeli settlement-building in lands it seized in the 1967 Mideast war. Friedman runs a nonprofit that raises millions of dollars for Beit El, a settlement of religious nationalists near Ramallah. Beit El runs a right-wing news outlet and a yeshiva whose dean has provocatively urged Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to uproot settlers from their homes.

So it’s unsurprising that Friedman’s nomination has already sharpened a growing balkanization of American Jews, between those who want the U.S. to push Israel toward peace and those who believe Obama’s approach abandoned America’s closest Mideast ally.

It’s a debate playing out even at Temple Hillel, near the Long Island-Queens border, where Friedman’s father was rabbi for almost half a century.

“Clearly, David’s opinions do not appeal to everybody in the synagogue, and they appeal to others in the synagogue,” said Ken Fink, the synagogue’s president and longtime congregant. “But there’s a huge amount of pride for the hometown boy.”

Thirty-two years before Trump’s election, President Ronald Reagan donned a yarmulke and noshed on chicken cutlets and noodle pudding at Rabbi Morris Friedman’s home, after a speech at Temple Hillel affirming the separation between church and state. Coming just two weeks before Reagan’s re-election, the attempt to woo Jewish voters struck some as opportunistic, and they protested on the streets of the heavily Jewish town of North Woodmere.

Seated at the Sabbath table with Reagan was David Melech Friedman — his middle name means “king” in Hebrew. The rabbi’s son went on to become Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, an advocate for far-right policies on Israel, and now, Trump’s choice for ambassador, despite having no diplomatic experience.

Cindy Grosz, who said she’s known Friedman for nearly 50 years, recalled big parties with boisterous debates about Jewish issues held in his family’s sukkah, the outdoor hut Jews build during the harvest festival Sukkot.

“He still has the same best friends he’s had for over 30 years,” Grosz said.

At his midtown Manhattan law firm, Friedman opens his offices to those in mourning who need a minyan — a quorum of 10 men in Orthodox Judaism — to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, a prayer that observant Jews say daily for one year after a parent’s death.

And it was a parent’s death, in a way, that brought Friedman and Trump closer together. Over the years, Friedman has told friends the story of how the billionaire real estate mogul defied an oppressive snowstorm that had kept others away to “sit shiva” for Friedman’s father during the Jewish mourning period.

Educated at Columbia University and NYU School of Law, Friedman developed a reputation as an aggressive, high-stakes bankruptcy attorney, representing Trump when his Atlantic City casinos went through bankruptcy.

In the courtroom, he’s known as a formidable opponent, said attorney Tariq Mundiya, Friedman’s adversary in several cases. He said he’d been aware of Friedman’s advocacy on Israel but added, “When you’re in the fog of war with David, the last thing you’re talking about is the Middle East.”

Enraged by Trump’s pick, left-leaning groups and Palestinian officials have suggested his confirmation could spell the end of any serious discussions about peace.

Netanyahu has stayed publicly quiet about Trump’s pick. Friedman and Trump’s transition team didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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  • My position has always been a one State solution between Israel and Palestine. I’m a Vietnam veteran and supported South Vietnam against the North Vietnam. Then, there is the Korean War creating North and South Korea. Before that, East and West Berlin in Germany. And, many more examples around the World. We must work towards a one State Nation between Israel and Palestine.

    • Yeah, I see that and it would be desirable but I just don’t see how it’s going to happen. I had several Palestinian Arab students. They really had no animosity toward Israelis. (Kids often seem a lot smarter than adults) They did however, feel that the situation was kind of hopeless.

        • Well Palestinians have shown time and time again they are not interested in any compromise. Giving them concessions only makes them more aggressive. I think Trump has the right approach. Do not show weakness and let them come to the peace table with the acceptance of Israel’s existence. Until they are willing to accept that — there are no negotiations.

        • Why should there be any preconditions for negotiation? These are just impediments to talking at all.

        • Such BS. Only Israel allows all faiths to equally co-exist. Every single adjoining country is wicked to all Jews and despicable to everyone that isn’t a muslim. Tyrants all, they destroy everything they touch. Zero innovation, unless it is to create a new method of blowing something up! Israel should expand her borders outwards in every possible direction – it would be the best thing that ever happened in the modern Middle East. Two states? What a terrible thing to do! Look at Gaza, Israel had it nice and clean, then they “gave it back” to the Palestinians and look at it now – a foul and unclean place of 3rd World dimensions.

        • Baloney…. Israel specifically states that they are a Jewish state.

          So everyone else is a second class citizen.

          Israel does no favors for the non-Jewish, most of whom have been in Israel much longer than any recent immigrants from WWII Europe.

      • Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer will be an ambassador with no diplomatic experience, sent to one of the world’s most dangerous and diplomatically challenging regions. What could go wrong? MAGA

        • Look at your boy obama, the “Community Organizer”. Had he been a White man running for president with the same “credentials”, he’d have been laughed out of the room and shamed to no end for having the audacity to run on such a shallow resume’.

    • Sorry “kuroi” but your “logic” doesn’t make any sense. In the case of Vietnam, they were all Vietnamese, in the case of Korea, they were all Koreans and in the case of Germany, they were all Germans and each spoke the same language with similar cultural backgrounds.
      The Palestinians and the Jews are about as opposite as they can get. Neither will ever assimilate. Being a Vietnam veteran doesn’t make you an expert on international relations.

        • This is how you analyze Mr. Mililani’s comment? You might consider having a literate friend read it to you.

      • Hey Mr. Mililani, the Jews and Palestinians are genetic cousins and related for thousands of years. Just as you say the Vietnamese, the Koreans, the Germans, etc. are genetically related, the Jews and Palestinians are the same. Being a Vietnam veteran opens your eyes and mind to ask, why are the Vietnamese from the North fighting with Vietnamese from the South?

        • you are another person who don’t know what your talking about, there not related there never was a Palestine or Palestinian arabs ever in the middle east its a made up name that the romans used. for 3700 years the jews ruled isreal before the romans invaded and took over all of iarael there were no Palestinian arabs at that time or anytime even now.

    • Well said kuroiwaj. BRAVO ZULU!

      The make believe ‘two state’ solution is nothing of the sort.

      It is the necessary fig leaf of pretense under which the total eradication of the Jewish state of Israel – – indeed the extermination of all Jews in the region – – must proceed with great gusto.

      Anyone who doubts that should consider the gigantic strategic mistake made by Israel in ever even considering – – let alone agreeing to – – the Oslo Accords during the pro-terrorist Slick Willy era when Yassar Arafat was THE most frequent White House visitor and Osama bin Laden’s extensive, years long preparation for 9/11 was green lighted by the apathy and dereliction of duty on the part of Not-So-Slick-After-All.

      One has the sense that both Netanyahu and President Elect Trump will steer clear of this rattlesnake nest, that lessons have been learned, and that the vigorous post WW II battle cry of surviving Jews, “NEVER AGAIN”, will carry the day.

      There is only one road to peace that will satisfy these feral Palestinians – – and it is to paved with the bodies of dead Jews.

      Naturally that is also the path preferred by the current occupant of the White House, who in the final days of his majestic reign, seems hell bent on doing all he can to complete his “transformation” (destruction) of the country he most loathes and despises on the face of this earth, America.

      One wonders what enterprising entrepreneur will be the first to produce a T shirt with the mug of said occupant on it below which appears the phrase “I survived transformation”. Instant best seller.

  • Netanyahu has been playing both sides for too long, claiming that he supports the two-state solution favored by the US and, at the same, supporting illegal settlements. These are mutually exclusive viewpoints. Netanyahu negotiated in bad faith for several years and inappropriately interfered in the US election. Obama highlighted Netanyahu’s hypocrisy and delivered the rebuff that Netanyahu richly deserved.

    • Thanks “BS”. Great comment. I couldn’t have said it better. There will never be peace in that area unless there are two states. Unfortunately, the Jewish lobby controls many politicians in Washington with their political donations and any who vote against Israel have heavy $$$$$ donations made to their election opponents. Money talks in Washington.

      • Oh dear.

        What next will you resort to – – the entirely fictional “Protocols of The Elders of Zion?”

        Or perhaps the “scientific” remedy proposed by Margaret Sanger, (the esteemed founder of Planned Parenthood) called “Eugenics”, the eliminating of undesirables in order to purify the race?

        Or perhaps a certain “final solution” embraced by a former WW I private with a flair for rousing beer hall rhetoric who when he finally came to power in 1933, and along with his trusted associate Heinrich Himmler, took Eugenics to its ultimate conclusion in order to produce a master race by industrial scale extermination of blacks, slavs, gypsies, h o m o s e x u a l s, and, naturally, back stabbing Jewish bankers – – indeed all Jews – – who had caused Germany to lose WWI, surrendering without even one enemy soldier ever having set foot on German soil and who had imposed the punishing terms of the Versailles Treaty to make Germans suffer.

    • Illegal settlements? “To the victor goes the spoils,” is an old saying about warfare. Egypt, Jordan and Syria ganged up to attack and defeat Israel in June 1967, but ended up getting their butts kicked beyond belief and in the process of kicking their azzes, Israel seized the Gaza Strip, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Golan Heights in Syria, from which Syria constantly sent mortar and artillery rounds into Israel. Israel has every right to keep the territory it seized. It returned the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, and look at the grief it has caused Israel. Why should Israel give back the West Bank and the Golan Heights and leave itself very vulnerable for more attacks? Russia still has islands seized from Japan in the final days of World War II and refuses to return them to Japan. Russia also seized the Crimea from the Ukraine and won’t return it. Other countries still retain and even annexed territory seized in warfare decades ago. Despite what Russia and many other countries have done, the focus is always on Israel to return the land it seized in warfare. Why are all the others being given a pass?

      • Well said Ronin006 – – good on ya, Mate.

        In the wake of the decision to partition the WW I mandate of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, just look at the difference in RESULTS.

        The Jews succeeded in constructing a modern western parliamentary form of democracy, making the desert bloom and creating a land of cultural enrichment under the aegis of a solid stable government.

        And on exactly the same turf, look at what the feral Palestinians have “accomplished” by way of self governance: endless “refugee” camps dependent on the charity of others, mindless bloody warfare that targets innocent men women and children. These pathetic beings have left no doubt: they are not anywhere near civilized enough to govern themselves. Instead of culture, they have embraced the chalice of vengeance from which they have drunk deep and succeeded only in poisoning themselves ever since. Lacking any redeeming social features, they now think they have found the key to a glorious future by casting themselves as ‘victims’ – – in this case they are indeed victims, victims of their own making. They have no one to blame for their misfortune but themselves.

      • also Palestinians were never in the west bank or old Jerusalem in 67 it was owned by the hasemite Jordanians who ruled that area, in 48 they chase the arabs that were living there out of the west bank and old Jerusalem and took over it, and they were not Palestinians either back then or even in the 67 war.

      • There will be no respect for the minions that was picked by a bankrupt junkie,p grabbing,reality boss three time married, con artist. The world is laughin at the US because of trumpf. Worst the Duerte of PI.

        • Nope.

          It is sore losers like you who are trying desperately – – and failing – – to avoid being laughed at.

          Watching the vast and the half-vast fall so far and so fast is endlessly amusing.

        • Correction. The world is laughing at the democrat party and it’s (formerly smug) supporters. The joke’s on YOU, nanakuli, and it’s friggin’ hilarious, you sore loser.

  • Trump needs to expect fierce opposition on this appointment. Don’t know why he sought this appointment. It’ll be very unpleasant for the US and the new ambassador.

    • wiliki claims he does not know why he sought this appointment

      No mystery really.

      In contrast to the current occupant of the White House, President Elect Trump (gosh how I love to write that!) is a practiced counter puncher who thrives of the sting of battle, who loves America and wants to make her great again.

      For that reason he is putting together a team that will do just that.

      In this particular case, he understands that a rock solid Israel is the key to mid east stability amidst these currently turbid conditions that have largely been set in motion by an historic first: POTUS 44, the very first President of the USA who actually hates America and is now bitter that his “transformation” will not prove enough to destroy America before he leaves office in a mere 34,925 minutes from now – – but who’s counting, eh?

      • Baloney… ever since the 1948 UN declaration of Israel, there has been violence in Palestine – starting with the attacks and genocide of innocent Palestinian villages on land that Israel wanted.

        • I got news for you, there’s been violence in Palestine for the last several thousand years, not just since 1948. The Jews/Christians and the Muslims have been fighting over the area every since Jerusalem was founded and the Persian empire came and took it away.
          The fighting is not about ethnicity, it’s about religion.

        • Baloney… there have been external attacks to the region for centuries but that’s true of all places.

          There’s no exception. WWII for example, ended with the British occupation of a formerly Turkish occupation.

          Palestine itself has seen the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Muslims for centuries until 1948.

          I suspect the Europeans wanted Jews to immigrate to Israel rather than reoccupy and regain properties that they had abandoned when they fled as refugees.

          Certainly more would have gone to the US than Israel if the UN resolution had not passed. IIRC Israel absorbed more that 100,000 refugees in a very short time.

          Of course, we could not expect Jews and Palestinian Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. The Israelis sought to acquire land and still take it today.

    • Why? Because this man said that Mr. Trump was smart. That’s the only necessary qualification to be considered in the mind of Mr. Trump.

      Trump is a profoundly mentally ill narcissist.

  • Obama’s policies of placating Muslims and dumping on Israel has been wholly unsuccessful and has encouraged Muslim terrorists seeing that Obama’s U.S. as weak and do nothing pacifistic. I look forward to Trump’s ideas and actions in this arena.

        • Palestinian application for nationhood. Obama lined up with Israeli in opposition at the UN.

          But more than that, aid has continued and increased under Obama. No complaints from Republicans here.

  • If the Palestinians wanted peace – they could have it tomorrow. But, what they really want, is to annihilate Israel and commit genocide of all Jews. Palestinians want ethnic cleansing and to destroy everything to dust. Hard to negotiate with such an intractable foe.

    • If the Palestinians wanted peace – they could have it tomorrow.

      Well said!

      As has often been noted, were the Palestinians to abandon their arms en masse, peace would be the instant result.

      Were the Israelis to do that, a new holocaust would erupt to consume all Jews in the middle east.

      • Lies of course… Israel has been taking land continuously every since the 1948 UN resolution on Israel. They need to stop and give it back if they expect to have peace.

        How about making that a precondition for negotiation?

        • wiliki you are so full of it of everything you say, you know nothing about the Israel and Palestinian conflict.

        • Very true 64hoo but in the case of wiliki, not knowing his [redacted] from a hole in the ground has never slowed him down in the slightest – – indeed the less he knows, the more certain he is of his opinions when pontificating on the grand scale.

        • Baloney…. I was born well before the 1948 resolution. It’s part of the history that we study in school. But I also have read the papers and heard the news.

          I think your education is deficit in this regard.

          Or worse… you believe all the propaganda that the Israelis and the US press put out. Foreign news services tell at different story and have always done so.

        • wiliki now I know why you don’t no much about the 48 resolution you are probably in your late 70s or 80 and your mind starts to get fuzzy at that age, I hope senile does not set in.

  • Numbers 24:9

    Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed,
    And whoever curses Israel will be cursed.”

    Now I didnʻt say it, itʻs in the Bible, “Curse you Obama”.

    • Over the period of thousands of years, recorded in the Old Testament, a people sought wisdom and truth and found it.
      It is codified in the ten commandments and in the other laws.
      I exudes the idea that if you humbly live by these truths you will prosper and if you do not you will suffer.
      The OT tells the story, over and over, of failures and their consequences.
      There is no playing around with this, for which the religious expression is: “The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom”

      Those who curse Israel also curse this wisdom.
      From the beginning, both in its foundation and its continuation, our country has had this wisdom in its bedrock, in its institutions and ways of perceiving the world.

      • No… Israel has unjustly stolen land and persecuted Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

        The OT laws apply to external enemies and not to Jewish neighbors and friends. We forget that there is OT law about not stealing. Israel has violated that many times over.

        OT laws also does not condone sectarian violence. If it did, then the different sects of Judaism would have wiped themselves out centuries ago.

        And Jesus himself said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – probably the greatest Jewish sect of all. If you don’t count the Muslim faith which has accepted the same monotheistic god as its god. I think that Christians are just as confused as the Jews. My son, the basic Christian, considers Mormans to be a cult and not a Christian Sect. I see a great similarity with the Catholic Church structure. The other differences are just cultural and historic.

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