Media

  • NYT: Where Biden Is (and Isn’t) Turning Back Trump’s Israel Policies

    “Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that for proponents of Palestinian rights, Mr. Biden’s approach had done little to move the ball forward. ‘The sense of disappointment and betrayal is palpable,’ she said. ‘Those comments are read clearly by the Bibi government as a green light,’ she said, referring to Mr. Biden’s public statement last week. ‘If that’s not what you mean, you’ve got to say something. And if it is what you mean, you’ve got to own it.'”

  • Betty McCollum’s bill won’t pass. So what’s the Israel lobby so afraid of?

    “In fact, there is no regular reporting on the use of US aid to Israel. According to Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the bill’s requirement that the Secretary of State report each year on whether or not Israel is complying with US regulations, ‘crosses a red line for many defenders of Israel, who oppose any official US government acknowledgement of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, and who would no doubt fear that such a report would strengthen future calls for conditions on aid to Israel.’ Friedman also correctly notes that the bill requires nothing more than this reporting, imposing no penalties for Israeli failure to comply with the law.”

  • +972 Magazine: How hawkish Democrats are impeding Biden’s Middle East policy (by Mitchell Plitnick)

    “The purpose of all this opposition is not necessarily to combat the minimal funding Biden has restored to Palestinians. Rather, it is to raise the political cost of addressing Israel-Palestine at all. As Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace told me, ‘The tactic of opponents of progress (between Israel and the Palestinians) is to politicize even the low-hanging fruit so people have to spend so much political capital on what should be simple matters that they have nothing left for tougher battles.'”

  • Times of Israel: Did the US downgrade its Palestinian ties by ‘upgrading’ its Jerusalem mission?

    “Lara Friedman (no relation to the ambassador), who served as political officer responsible for tracking settlement activity at the Jerusalem consulate in the 1990s, noted that it had long been the desire of settlers and their advocates to close the consulate. ‘They want to be able to say that all of Jerusalem belongs to Israel and there is only one legitimate grouping between the river and the sea,’ she said. ‘Having any diplomatic representation that is not linked to the government of Israel is a contradiction of that.’ Having to go through the US consulate long annoyed settler leaders, but it was something they adapted to, said Lara Friedman, noting that settler leaders even attended the consulate’s Fourth of July party each year rather than the one held at the ambassador’s Herzliya residence. She noted that even if the Biden administration decides to open a consulate for the Palestinians, so long as the embassy continues the Trump-instituted policy of serving Israelis on both sides of the Green Line alike, Washington will still be ‘de facto treating the West Bank as Israeli sovereign territory.’

    “Friedman, who now serves as president of the DC-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, flatly rejected the former ambassador’s characterization of the merger as an upgrade. ‘This is effectively saying to… [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas that he is now the equivalent of the mayor of Haifa.’ Taking further issue with the Trump envoy’s reasoning for nixing the consul general post, she said, ‘The idea that it is bad for US policy to have more than one viewpoint suggests that the less information you have the better.'”

  • Is Facebook about to crack down on criticism of Zionism? (+972 Magazine)

    “‘There seems to have been a pivot from trying to get Facebook to adopt the IHRA, to Facebook looking at defining the word ‘Zionist’ — used in any critical sense — as indistinguishable from antisemitism,’ said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace [full disclosure: the foundation financially supports +972 Magazine]. ‘This may be based on a good faith concern, as there are certainly instances of antisemites using the terms ‘Jewish’ and ‘Zionist’ interchangeably,’ Friedman continued. ‘But of course, the issue there isn’t the word but the context. Given the pressure around IHRA, it’s not paranoid to be concerned that this focus on the word ‘Zionist’ is just a back door to get the same impact that you would get if Facebook adopted IHRA in terms of stigmatizing and deplatforming criticism of Israel.’”

  • Haaretz: What Each of Israel’s Election Night Scenarios Will Mean for Working Ties With Biden

    “The story of how the ideology of the late Meir Kahane became mainstreamed in Israeli politics has not yet been sufficiently told, according to Foundation for Middle East Peace President Lara Friedman. The extremist American rabbi served as an Israeli lawmaker for four years before his Kach party was banned from running in the 1988 election. (He was assassinated by an Egyptian gunman in Manhattan, in 1990.) ‘The liberal Zionist world is convinced that people will be shocked by Kahanists being in government, and it is shocking. But his views are already in the mainstream of Israeli politics, and it’s gone by without anyone noticing,’ she observes. ‘If he came back to life tomorrow and saw the rhetoric, from the right toward the center, he’d be very happy.’

    “Friedman is skeptical that a Netanyahu-led government featuring far-right extremists would lead to any significant change in the Biden administration’s approach. ‘It’s going to be a right-wing government no matter what,’ she says. ‘We’ve been saying ‘The most right-wing government in Israel’s history’ after each successive election for 15 years,’ she adds, noting that the U.S. approach is to try to maintain the status quo with Israel. ‘If there’s a line that Israel could cross, it’s difficult to see what that would be. It’s hard to imagine that the United States will suddenly find the stomach to clash with Israel based on the political coloration of a new government,’ Friedman says.

    The Biden administration has yet to express any formal concerns regarding a potential Israeli government having an affiliation with State Department-designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Kach and Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives), and the American-Jewish establishment has likewise been silent to date (though organizations such as AIPAC did criticize Netanyahu when he backed an electoral pact between Otzma Yehudit and other extremists in early 2019).

    “‘People just aren’t shocked by it at the moment,’ Friedman says. ‘That political worldview in the late 1980s, early ’90s, was so beyond the pale for Israelis and for U.S. policy. Today, that narrative is already woven into the mainstream right – the only difference is they’re saying the quiet part loud. But they’d been saying it pretty loud already.’ Such examples, according to Friedman, include Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman being considered a respectable politician despite consistently calling for the transfer of Arabs to the West Bank, as well as Bennett calling for Arab Israelis to take loyalty oaths. ‘This smells and tastes of Meir Kahane already, and there’s been no backlash.’ Friedman says. ‘De facto annexation has been a feature of every Israeli government for the past 15 years, and that hasn’t hurt relations.’

    “She cites the Biden administration’s silence following the Israeli announcement of planned construction at Givat Hamatos – an East Jerusalem neighborhood outside the pre-1967 borders – as a significant example of static U.S. policy. ‘Givat Hamatos and E1 [next to East Jerusalem] are the two settlements the U.S. has publicly and powerfully intervened on, based on the argument that they make the two-state solution impossible,’ she says. ‘Israel basically announced [new housing at] Givat Hamatos on Inauguration Day and the Biden folks haven’t said a word about it.’

    “Friedman notes the double standard of holding Palestinians to old conditions where they have to support the two-state solution, while a significant number of Israeli lawmakers in successive governments have rejected this. ‘It hasn’t hurt [Israel’s] U.S. relations at all, while the empty rhetoric remains. It’s hard to see a firm line in the sand that can’t be crossed that would lead to consequences,’ she says. ‘And Netanyahu seems to understand that well.’

    “Netanyahu’s experiences with previous U.S. administrations is informing Biden’s approach, Friedman says, arguing that he operates as if he will succeed no matter who is in power. ‘He operates like ‘If it’s Trump, I can flatter him and find my fellow travelers. If it’s Obama, I will corner him between a rock and a hard place.’ He very effectively checkmated Obama’s policies, notwithstanding the fact he was the most generous and noncritical U.S. president for Israel in decades; he has been stuck with a false legacy,’ she says. Aware of this dynamic, as well as Netanyahu’s ‘extraordinary all-out on Congress and the U.S. Jewish community’ regarding Iran, the Biden administration is instead saving its political capital for a potential clash over a return to the nuclear deal (officially known as the JCPOA), Friedman believes. ‘On everything else – the International Criminal Court, settlements, violence – the administration response is ‘Both sides should hold back.’ It’s hard not to conclude the key operating rule is: ‘Don’t clash with Israel,’’ she says.”

  • How Joe Biden Can Stop Donald Trump’s Massive UAE Arms Deal (HuffPo)

    “Because the arms deal was presented as ‘the cost’ of the UAE recognizing Israel, the question of what arms the U.S. must supply to Israel became inescapable, said Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Ultimately, the situation ‘really does look a lot like an arms race,’ she added. To Friedman, who tracks U.S.-Israel relations, it was surprising that Trump did not explicitly address QME prior to approving the deal. ‘I find it hard to believe that Congress would tolerate it,’ she said, adding that part of why he seemed to be successful in doing so was loudly calling himself ‘the most hard-right, pro-Israel president in history.'”

  • Haaretz: Biden Praised Trump for This Achievement. Now He Needs to Decide What to Do With It

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, says it remains to be seen whether it’s possible to parlay the Abraham Accords into improvements on the ground for the Palestinians. ‘People have said they can be used to promote peace, but nobody knows because it’s never been tried. Could it be? Sure. But the way it’s gone so far, it has had the opposite effect. The Israelis have learned that they can have normalized relations with the Arab world without giving an inch on the Palestinians,’ she says…”

  • The Verge: Facebook is getting pulled into a fight about the politics of Israel

    “’Facebook’s updates to its hate speech policy haven’t satisfied its IHRA-focused critics, whose goal isn’t to get Facebook to deplatform antisemitism,’ wrote Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in the wake of the August letter, ‘but to get Facebook to deplatform criticism of Israel.'”