My college classmate, Donald Trump's Israel adviser, eviscerates Reform leader Jacobs
There were (at least) two Dave Friedman's who started Columbia with me who eventually became lawyers. One, with whom I have been in touch over the years through friends, is a partner at a Manhattan law firm. The other, who actually overlapped with me for a year at NYU law (I took two years off between college and law school to study in yeshiva in Israel) was someone I had not seen since he graduated law school in 1981. I googled and found the picture above. Unmistakable. Definitely the wisecracking Dave Friedman who went to college and law school with me.
Dave has come under attack by rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union of Reform Judaism, a member of J Street's rabbinic council, a board member of the New Israel Fund, and someone who has participated in demonstrations against Jerusalem's Jews in Israel. Why? Because of remarks Dave made to CNN last week.
"It ought to be time to at least take a fresh look at this," Friedman said, adding that he believes even many Arabs in the West Bank may prefer Israeli rule to a Palestinian state. "The two-state solution might be one answer, but I don't think it's the only answer anymore."
Friedman was the Trump adviser who told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz two weeks ago that Trump may be open to Israel annexing part of the West Bank, which is counter to stated U.S. policy.
Friedman told CNN this week that he was responding to a hypothetical situation and saying there may be circumstances where that is true, rather than putting it forward as a policy position.
But he also indicated to CNN that Trump could be amenable to the changes the Iron Dome Alliance is seeking, though he didn't comment on specific language.
For the record, the Iron Dome Alliance is a group started by Jeff Ballaboon, who follows me on Twitter and likely reads this blog from time to time.He said the mogul would support a policy of not "imposing" U.S. will on Israel. Other policy positions would include an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, regional military and technological superiority for the nation and showing "no daylight" between the U.S. and Israel in public.
In response, Dave eviscerates rabbi Rick.These reports raise a number of significant concerns and more than a few questions, such as:
I ask these questions because it seems axiomatic that the alternative to two states is one state. Such a state would either be a Jewish state that would cease to be a democracy and disenfranchise millions of Palestinian souls, or it would be a democracy and cease to be Jewish. It would put the fate of the Jewish State of Israel in the hands of extremists on all sides, exposing the region to an endless cycle of violence. Are either of these alternatives acceptable to you? They are not acceptable to us, and that is why the Reform Movement has a longstanding position in support of a two-state solution.
- Under what circumstances can you imagine another “answer” would be preferable?
- What would another “answer” look like? How would it be developed? Implemented?
- How would any other “answer” provide peace and security for Israel?
- How would any other “answer” provide peace and security for the Palestinians?
- Do you believe Israel can have peace and security without the Palestinians having the same?
I write with a sense of deep concern. As I hope and trust you know, a two-state solution has been a bedrock of American foreign policy for decades, supported by every American President – Democratic and Republican alike – since at least President George W. Bush in 2002. It is also the policy of the Israeli government, and has been the policy of every Israeli government since Prime Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Accords at the White House in 1993.
Only two states for two people can end the conflict and offer hope and security to a part of the world that needs and deserves them, a region that is of vital interest to the United States in all of our nation’s foreign policy concerns.
No one familiar with the current reality can doubt that there remain significant obstacles to achieving a two-state solution, but that doesn’t mean it is no longer the preferred solution. Any comments suggesting otherwise undermine responsible Middle East policy.
For all these reasons and more, I was taken aback to read Mr. Friedman’s suggestion that another “answer” might make more sense, especially because he did not offer any ideas about what such an alternative might be. To talk about discarding such a fundamental tenet of both U.S. and Israeli policy, without offering any alternative, suggests either a lack of understanding or a lack of seriousness. Either way, the statement calls for your urgent clarification.
July 6, 2016
Dear Rabbi Jacobs,
In your letter earlier today to Donald J. Trump and me, you state that you were “taken aback” by my comment that a “two state solution was an answer, but not the only answer,” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am happy to engage in a discussion with you on the subject, which I believe is more detailed and complex than either your letter, or my response below, can do justice. Nonetheless, I am happy to offer some brief summaries of my views.
That a two-state solution has been a part of American foreign policy for some length of time – something you place great weight upon -- is, to me, entirely irrelevant. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were also part of American foreign policy and I have no doubt that these were policies you opposed. As I’m sure you recognize, and as we witnessed this past week with the brutal murder of Hallel Ariel as she lay sleeping in her bed, followed the next day by the murder of Rabbi Michael Mark, a father of 10, the numerous proposals and initiatives for a two-state solution over the years have brought neither peace nor security to the State of Israel.
The issue confronting both the Israelis and the Palestinians is fundamentally humanitarian in nature. It is not political and it is not geographic. Both peoples are entitled to live in peace and dignity, and both peoples are being deprived of those fundamental rights because of one thing and one thing only – radical Islamic jihadism, a cancer that infects Israel and much of the rest of the world. No re-allocation of land will cure this scourge, and, indeed, Israel knew no peace from 1948 to 1967 when it did not even control Judea and Samaria.
So what should we do? Should we continue to force a square peg into a round hole and demand that Israel cede land to Palestinians in exchange for a naked promise that the Palestinians will change their behavior? Are you not concerned that Mahmoud Abbas has no electoral mandate (his term expired six years ago), and that his justification for not calling for new elections is that he will be replaced by an even more violent jihadist? Are you not concerned that Mr. Abbas presides over ceremonies honoring Palestinian terrorists or that he has been accused of massive fiscal corruption? Are you not concerned that Palestinians teach their children to hate and murder Jews, even putting on school plays enacting such despicable behavior? Are you not concerned that the Palestinian Authority has no ability to control the Hamas factions in Hebron, Jenin and Nablus, which continuously assault and kill Jewish people? Are you not concerned that the Palestinian Authority pays generous stipends to the families of terrorists who are jailed or killed after murdering Jews? Are you not concerned, after seeing the disastrous results of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, that a Palestinian state on the West Bank will bring missile attacks to the entire population of Israel?
I know that you have no doubt that the People of Israel want peace and that they are overwhelmingly well-intentioned, well-informed, and non-hateful. Given that, are you not concerned that your desire to divide Israel in two, leaving it without defensible borders, is solidly rejected by a super-majority of Israelis? Indeed, even many Palestinians now sensibly prefer Israeli rule to a nascent Palestinian state. Where but in Israel do Arabs have educational opportunity, first class healthcare, social and religious freedom and civil rights for women?
There are – and there must be -- other “answers” to a two-state solution, some short term, some longer. I would begin by making appropriate demands upon the Palestinians to end terror, incitement and hateful indoctrination. I would condition further US funding on meaningful progress in this regard. I would also encourage significant economic investment in Palestinian communities – a challenge given the difficulty of identifying non-corrupt leaders but still worth pursuing – to strengthen the Palestinian middle class. I would improve infrastructure and commit resources to enhance the quality of life for every inhabitant of the region. Simply put, I would focus on what most Palestinians and Israelis care the most about – better living conditions and better opportunities. If and when those initiatives bear fruit and tensions are reduced, talks could continue about long term solutions.
But, even then, I must reject categorically your statement that Israel must either be a democratic state or a Jewish state. The numbers simply do not support that conclusion. The Jewish population of pre-1967 Israel is now about 6.3 million out of 8.4 million people – about 75%. The Jewish population of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem is another 700,000 people out of about 2.4 million people (it may be lower as many think the Arab population is overstated). Thus, the Jewish population of the entire region is about 7.0 million out of 10.8 million – still a solid 65% majority. (By the way, many people quote all kinds of numbers for the West Bank population – these are, I believe, the most accurate)
I’m not saying, one way or the other, that a “one state solution” is the correct path. That is a decision for the Israeli people to make in consultation with the Palestinians. But it is simply not true that Jews will become a minority in their own land if a two-state solution is not implemented. Indeed, given the demands of the Palestinians for a return of so-called “refugees,” even the two-state solution they envision would provide no demographic certainty to Israeli Jews.
Let’s not grandstand this issue any more with “open letters” that I can’t help but feel have more to do with American politics than doing what’s best for Israel. Let’s have a cup of coffee (or some Israeli wine) and continue the dialogue.
Respectfully,Sounds like Dave has been reading Caroline Glick and Yoram Ettinger, while Jacobs is still living under the two-state delusion. Zeir gut gezogt (very well said).