Donald Trump’s Middle East Policy is Shaping Up to be a Disaster

Donald Trump has claimed he is going to bring peace to the Middle East. He somehow thinks he is going to do this by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem as a big slap in the face to Palestinians, and send as ambassador his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, who pulled the Donald’s golden nuts out of the fire in Atlantic City.

The statement issued by Trump’s transition team was at least probably right as a comparison of how right wingers in both Israel and the US view “freedom and democracy” (not favorably):

“The two nations have enjoyed a special relationship based on mutual respect and a dedication to freedom and democracy. With Mr. Friedman’s nomination, President-elect Trump expressed his commitment to further enhancing the U.S.-Israel relationship and ensuring there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.”

However, the talent to screw people while saving his client Trump from the disaster of his Atlantic City casinos is not a talent that is transferrable to the most volatile region on the planet. Worse, like moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the appointment of Friedman represents a shocking reversal of decades of US policy in the Middle East.

Friedman publicly opposes the longstanding cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East, the two-state solution, and supports Israel’s settlements on the occupied West Bank, a constant source of friction with Palestinians. Judy Maltz writes at Haaretz that,

“Based on statements he has issued and columns he has penned, Friedman, an Orthodox bankruptcy lawyer, is positioned on the far right of the Israeli political map – more hardline in his views than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

That’s pretty far to the right.

Trump could possibly have found somebody with more extremist views than Friedman – he has called Obama anti-Semitic – but Meir Kahane is dead. However, Friedman is bad enough: he says liberal Jewish organization J Street is “far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.”

The New York Times Editorial Board condemned the pick in the strongest possible terms:

“Like any president-elect, Mr. Trump is within his rights to nominate whomever he pleases. But with his choice of Mr. Friedman, he has displayed a dangerous ignorance of or indifference to the land mines across the Middle East. The Senate has the responsibility to protect Mr. Trump and the country from taking this reckless step.”

The Israel Policy Forum (IPF), which promotes a two-state solution, expressed concern over the choice as well, saying in a press release,

Mr. Friedman’s stated views on the two-state solution, Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represent a radical departure from decades of U.S. policy. Furthermore, they represent a break with the stated policies of the current Israeli government and place Mr. Friedman far outside the mainstream in the U.S. and in Israel. In addition, we are troubled by the disparaging comments Mr. Friedman has made about certain segments of the American Jewish community.

The IPF called on Trump “to clearly and unequivocally state his support for achieving the goal of two states for two peoples and to set out a plan to advance that objective in a manner that would ensure Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state.”

It would be nice if we could get an unequivocal statement of support for a democratic American state as well but if wishes were horses…Regardless, Trump’s selection of Friedman is reckless and reveals his complete lack of concern for the fallout of his uninformed decision-making processes, which are based entirely on the faulty assumption that he is a “smart guy.”

There is some irony to be found in the idea that Friedman, who once condemned Obama for surrounding himself with “sycophantic minions” while now be serving an administration chock-full of sycophantic minions run by a guy with time to watch SNL just so he can spend hours attacking it but unable to find the time for an intelligence briefing.

Which sorta explains the choice of David Friedman.