Monday, January 2, 2017

Is Donald Trump The Friend Israel Needs?

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.” Thus President-elect Donald J. Trump tweeted just before Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week. He added: “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but …”

Mr. Trump was presuming to side with Israel in its regional fight, but … as Mr. Kerry implied, particularly when he spoke elegiacally of Shimon Peres, one cannot be a friend to Israel without actually being a friend to some Israelis over others, one conception of Israel, the region, and Jews, for that matter, over another. These are also Jewish culture wars — centered on Israel, but played out vicariously among American Jews — and Mr. Trump has stepped, or stumbled, into the thick of them. Nor do they affect Jews alone, given America’s web of relations in the region. One hopes and trusts that senior appointees to his foreign policy team will take notice.

Their job became more difficult last month when Mr. Trump’s transition team named David M. Friedman, his bankruptcy lawyer, as the next United States ambassador to Israel, soon after announcing an intention to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Mr. Friedman, a major fund-raiser for the Beit El settlement built on the hills around the West Bank city of Ramallah, would doubtless feel at home in Jerusalem, where I live for half the year. The mental atmosphere of Greater Israel is nested here and in its encircling settlements.

By contrast, he would barely know what to make of Tel Aviv, where the embassy is now. That city is the heart of what could be called “Global Israel,” a Hebrew hub in a cosmopolitan system.

Read on at The New York Times