‘I don’t feel the same way about the Israeli Left as I do about the American Left, because the Israeli Left deeply, deeply care about their country,’ Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel is recorded saying.
Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next American ambassador to Israel has come under intense criticism for, among other things, saying the Jewish American pro-peace lobby J Street is “far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.”
But the contempt that Friedman, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic credentials, feels for American leftists does not extend to left-wing Israelis who hold the exact same positions.
In a video published by prominent Israeli political blogger Tal Schneider on Wednesday, Friedman says he respects the Israeli Left because unlike left-wing Americans, they care about their country. Oh yeah, and they send their kids to the army.
“Israel has a very active left wing. I don’t feel the same way about the Israeli Left as I do about the American Left, because the Israeli Left are sending their kids to the army, and the Israeli Left deeply, deeply care about their country,” Friedman told a room full of people in his hometown of Woodmere, NY on the eve of the presidential election. “In their case it’s a matter of conscience.”
“The American Left — they just don’t care about Israel. So it’s a different dynamic. So I respect the Israeli Left but don’t agree with them,” Friedman continued. “Israel is a center-right country but they have a strong Left and those people, obviously have a right to be heard as well.”
Not all Israeli leftists send their children to the army, of course. Three young Israeli women are currently doing time in military prison for refusing to complete their compulsory military service, and specifically for refusing to serve in the occupation.
Furthermore, the left-wing Israeli group that has come under the most fire in recent years, called traitors and worse, is Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli army combat soldiers who speak out about their military service in the occupied territories.
Sections of the video were originally published a week ago by CNN, which reported on other parts of the speech but not Friedman’s remarks on Israeli leftists, which had gone unreported until now. According to CNN, however, the video was removed from Facebook and video-hosting website Vimeo after the publication of its article.
Schneider, who declined to reveal where or from whom she acquired the video, published the clip on her Hebrew-language website, The Plog, along with several others. The other videos appear to be the same clips that CNN reported on last week, and which were subsequently taken down. In them, Friedman talks about how along with Christians United for Israel (CUFI), he removed any reference to the two-state solution from the latest Republican platform.
Friedman is currently in the middle of a contentious confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate, where despite significant opposition from Democrats, he is expected to be confirmed. In the would-be ambassador’s first hearing last month, he walked back his previous comments about J Street, and said that the two-state solution, “remains, I believe, the best possibility for peace in the region.”
Friedman, who has served as the head of an organization that raises money for Israeli settlements, and who according to Haaretz even had a building — which was illegally built on privately owned Palestinian land — dedicated in his name, also said in his Senate confirmation hearing that “settlements may not be helpful.”
The nomination of an ambassador to Israel who up until his appointment supported Israeli settlements, opposed the two-state solution, and compared left-wing Jews to Nazi collaborators, has been met with concerted campaigns and protests by American Jewish groups who oppose his selection.
Perhaps Israeli left-wing groups will find him to be slightly more of an ally, albeit an awkward and uncomfortable one. Human rights groups often spurned and tarnished by the Israeli government tend to cooperate with American diplomats in Israel. The previous U.S. ambassador to the country, Dan Shapiro, was outspoken critic of Israeli legislative and other measures targeting left-wing and human rights groups.