Left-wing Jewish-American groups led by J Street are attempting to block David Friedman’s nomination to be ambassador to Israel. J Street reportedly gave 124 Congressional candidates a total of $3.6 million in the recent election cycle through its political action committee. Nineteen of them were elected to the Senate.
J Street will now call on them and others to help block Friedman. I agree with Tevi Troy that the effort probably has “no chance” of succeeding.
Alan Dershowitz has said that “J Street is neither pro-Israel or pro peace.” He is right. Jeff Dunetz reminds us:
During the 2008 Israeli action against Hamas, when the IDF was protecting the country after it suffered tens of thousands of rockets from Gaza, J Street called Israel’s “escalation in Gaza counterproductive” and was “disproportionate.” It also made a moral equivalency argument between the policies of Israel and Hamas, stating that they found difficulty in distinguishing “between who is right and who is wrong” and “picking a side.”
The group has also advocated that the US negotiate with Hamas. J-Street lobbied in Congress to accept the discredited anti-Israel Goldstone Report which accused Israel of war crimes during that action against Hamas.
It’s natural, then, that J Street opposes the nomination of a staunch supporter of Israel like David Friedman. Moreover, Friedman has called out J Street in very harsh terms for its anti-Israel stance. (I agree with Dunetz that the way Friedman expressed his contempt was inappropriate, but his sentiments were spot on).
What about the specific criticism being leveled at Friedman? This statement by one critic is typical:
Friedman opposes the two-state solution and thus breaks with long-standing bipartisan U.S. policy on Israel, a policy that even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorses. David Friedman has called the two-state solution an ‘illusion,’ an ‘anachronism’ and ‘a narrative that needs to end.’
But a two-state solution probably is an illusion. The very fact that advocating it has been “longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy on Israel” tends to confirm Friedman’s point. If we have advocated this “solution” for decade after decade and it hasn’t come to pass, then it might well be an “illusion” and an “anachronism.”
Maybe it is time for a new “narrative.” I think so.
Why did Netanyahu endorse the two-state solution? Probably because of pressure from the Obama administration, because it sounds good, and because it costs little to “endorse.” If the endorsement stemmed from genuine faith in the “solution,” then the fact that it produced nothing provides further evidence that this isn’t a solution.
But if, free from U.S. pressure, Netanyahu or his successor pursues a peace agreement based on a two-state solution, there is no reason to think that the Trump administration with Friedman as the ambassador will stand in the way. On the contrary, Trump will probably help. He has said that getting a good peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be really cool (or words to that effect).
The meaning of the Friedman nomination, and what has J Street steamed, is that the U.S. probably won’t pressure Israel into negotiating a peace agreement based on the two-state (or any other) “solution.” If this means no peace agreement, so be it. The absence of a peace agreement will mark no departure from the past, and our ally has done very well without one.