Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump picks foe of 2-state solution to be ambassador to Israel

If Trump is against X, then he picks anti-X to lead X. The pattern continues.

If the official United States position on a two-state solution in the middle east is X, then Donald Trump’s pick for US ambassador to Israel, hard-liner David Friedman, is the anti-X.

Here are snippets from the New York Times’ report.

… President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Mr. Friedman, whose outspoken views stand in stark contrast to decades of American policy toward Israel, did not wait long on Thursday to signal his intention to upend the American approach. In a statement from the Trump transition team announcing his nomination, he said he looked forward to doing the job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Through decades of Republican and Democratic administrations, the embassy has been in Tel Aviv, as the State Department insists that the status of Jerusalem — which both Israel and the Palestinians see as their rightful capital — can be determined only through negotiations as part of an overall peace deal.

You gotta read the rest of the Times’ report to understand how Trump-like Friedman is. He insults left-leaning Jews and then doubles down on his insults.

Does anyone believe that appointing Friedman will make a middle-east peace easier to attain? Maybe Trump does. Might his thinking be that putting a hard-liner at the table will force the Palestinians to take a deal?

It’s hard to overlook another angle to the story. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is an orthodox Jew and his wife, Ivanka, converted to Judaism (from yahoo news and the NY Times). Kushner occupies a central position in the Trump campaign and transition team. He thus wields considerable influence and is reputed to have been the driving force behind Chris Christie’s fall from favor and the ensuing purge of Christie associates from the Trump transition team.

Here are some reactions to Kushner’s role in the transition from middle-east players.

Israeli officials, especially those close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were most optimistic, seeing Mr. Kushner as an ally. “There’s no question that he feels a strong commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future,” said Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, who has forged a close relationship with Mr. Kushner.

Palestinian leaders were more wary. “I don’t personally know Jared Kushner and have never met him, but welcome the idea of having him assist in breaking the deadlock in the negotiations of the conflict,” said Amin Maqboul, secretary general of the revolutionary council of Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority.

Scriber advises Mr. MaqBoul to be careful of what he wishes for. Both the above remarks were made before Trump’s appointment of an anti-two-state hard-liner as ambassador to Israel. At least one of them may be up for retraction now.

In an interview with The New York Times this week, Mr. Trump pointed to Mr. Kushner as an influential player in future Middle East peace efforts. “I mean, he knows it so well,” Mr. Trump said. “He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.”

But that seems to be a bit of fatherly exaggeration. Certainly, Mr. Kushner knows the region and players better than Mr. Trump, who has little experience here. But phone calls and emails to dozens of politicians, diplomats and journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories yielded few who had actually encountered him.

Now, it seems possible that Mr. Kushner will be a more regular visitor [to the middle east], gathering information and perhaps more for his father-in-law. To those who have talked with Mr. Trump, there is little doubt that Mr. Kushner is a powerful voice on issues involving Israel.

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