David Friedman, a top adviser to President-elect Trump on Israel, has pledged not to meet the dovish group J Street if he is appointed U.S. ambassador to Israel.
He spoke Sunday in a closed-door panel discussion held by the Saban Forum in Washington.
J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami was there. He responded on Twitter:
Lord help friends of Israel if someone like David Friedman is making US policy on Israel rather than John Kerry. #Saban16— Jeremy Ben-Ami (@JeremyBenAmi) December 4, 2016
The bankruptcy lawyer turned policy adviser skipped an address by Secretary of State Kerry to the forum. Instead he attended a fundraising gala dinner held by the American Friends of Bet El Institutions, where he serves as president. The non-profit group raises funds for Bet El, a West Bank Jewish settlement not far from Ramallah.
According to its tax filings, the group raised in previous years around $2 million, which supported activities in Bet El and the settler radio station Arutz Sheva.
The gala included keynote speeches from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, and John Bolton, rumored to be a possible pick for Secretary of State in Trump’s administration.
Should he be appointed ambassador, how would Friedman bridge the gap between his active support for the settlements and America’s years-long support for a two-state solution which would require removal of many settlements?
This question was on the minds of many at the Saban Forum as well, who expressed surprise at his hawkish comments.
Friedman, according to participants, would not say a Trump administration would work to advance a two-state solution. Before the election, he went on record saying that Trump may abandon the idea altogether. Days before Americans went to the polls, Friedman released a policy paper he co-authored with Trump’s personal attorney Jason Dov Greenblatt, also an Israel adviser to the president-elect. The two argued that a two-state solution “appears impossible” due to Palestinians’ behavior.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.