Two of Donald Trump’s Middle East peace negotiators, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, took part in a grotesque celebration of a religious settlers’ dig under a Palestinian neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem on Sunday, and the bash has raised an issue that it is almost impossible to discuss in the U.S.: Why are there so many Zionist Jews on this portfolio?
Not everyone is allowed to ask. Liberal Zionist Michael Koplow laid out his own religious attachment to Israel before attacking the inappropriate religious conduct of two White House officials cavorting in their favorite “historical and religious playground.”
I understand where Greenblatt and Friedman are coming from. I grew up in the same New York Orthodox Jewish community from which they hail, and graduated from the same Orthodox high school as Greenblatt. I’ll wager that I spent more time in Israel as a kid, whether with my family or on various teen summer programs, than they did. I feel just as strong an emotional attachment to Jerusalem as they obviously do, and have spent countless hours across years at the Temple Mount southern wall excavations, the City of David site, and other archeological exhibits in Silwan… I think that the U.S. has an interest in clearly and forcefully recognizing those historical, religious, cultural, and political ties. None of this changes the fact that Greenblatt and Friedman are acting in wildly inappropriate ways for U.S. diplomats, and as American citizens, we should insist that they do better…
It is glaringly obvious that Greenblatt and Friedman are letting their personal views and interests interfere with their jobs.
Yaakov Katz, the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, raised the issue with Greenblatt last month. All three of Trump’s team are religious Jewish friends of Israel, he said, and Palestinians feel “under assault.”
Do you understand where the Palestinians come from when they say for example you got three orthodox Jewish men, Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman, Jared Kushner, who are the point people on the Israeli Palestinian portfolio? You’ve moved the embassy, you’ve recognized Jerusalem, you’ve recognized the Golan Heights. You cut off funding to UNRWA. From their perspective, not that I have too much sympathy, it seems that they’re being surrounded or under assault.
Greenblatt conceded that it “looks like we’re fighting the Palestinian people,” but we’re not.