Until now, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has offered some juicy – and sometimes contradictory – sound bites but no real policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That changed dramatically this week when one of his two top advisers on Israeli affairs was interviewed in Haaretz.
It was more than scary. It was terrifying.
The adviser, David Friedman, made it clear that Trump doesn’t support a two-state solution and would even back Israeli annexation of all or parts of the West Bank. He basically tore up 50 years of bipartisan U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians and put forward extreme positions that even the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has not advocated.
The interview made it clear that electing Trump would be like putting an extreme zealot of the Jewish Home Party and the settler movement in the White House.
J Street issued a statement on March 16 noting that we consider Trump to be unfit to be President. This interview just proves that point once again.
When we issued that statement, we were making a judgment on Trump’s character and temperament based on his attacks on women and minorities, as well as his outrageous proposals to ban and profile Muslims and build a massive wall along our border with Mexico. Now we see his ideas on Israel fall into the same pattern – ill-informed, extreme and dangerously irresponsible.
Blithely abandoning support for a two-state solution and giving the settler movement and the rightists in the Israeli government a green light for annexation would place Israel on a perilous path. Anyone who truly cares about Israel’s future as a democracy and as a Jewish homeland should be appalled. For decades, Israelis and Palestinians alike have relied on the steady support of the United States in pursuit of a sustainable and just peace. Even when their own leaders have lacked the courage and vision to move forward, successive U.S. presidents of both parties have kept the flame of peace alive.
Trump would snuff it out in one mighty breath.
Friedman, a 57-year-old lawyer specializing in real estate and bankruptcies, heads the American Friends of Bet El, a West Bank settlement located north of Ramallah with a population of around 6,000, and has helped raise millions of dollars for the settlement in recent years. He is apparently a frontrunner for the job of U.S. ambassador to Israel should Trump be elected.
Friedman’s statements expanded what Trump himself said in an interview to the London Daily Mail on May 3, in which he stated that he was in favor of continued Israeli settlement of the West Bank: “They really have to keep going, they have to keep moving forward. Look, missiles were launched into Israel and Israel was never properly treated by our country.”
But Friedman’s words take this already irresponsible position a huge – and dangerous – step further. Asked by Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid if Trump would support the annexation of at least parts of the West Bank to Israel, he said: “I would expect that he would.”
Clearly, there are many reasons why it is imperative to defeat Donald Trump this November. Our country’s future – and that of the entire world – depends on it. Our democracy, our common decency, our economy and our society are all at stake.
David Friedman’s interview also shows that the two-state solution – and any hope that Israel and the Palestinians can live in peace and security and that Israel can preserve its democratic future as a Jewish homeland – also hang in the balance.
Alan Elsner is J Street’s Special Advisor to the President.