The 18 MKs from the Joint List and Meretz factions of the Knesset boycotted US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s first official meeting with Knesset members on Tuesday, July 25.
Friedman addressed a meeting of the Knesset Caucus headed by MKs Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) and Avraham Neguise (Likud) on US-Israel relations. He advised the MKs to strengthen Israel’s bond with the US by “speaking less and listening more.”
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren (Kulanu), who was Israel’s ambassador to the US during the Obama administration, said, “In the previous administration, Israel was seen as part of the problem, but with this administration we are seen as part of the solution.”
MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) told Friedman he did not understand the Trump administration’s policies on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and asked for clarification. “I am sorry that I can’t be specific, but the Trump administration is committed to peace in the Middle East and will try to help,” Friedman said.
Far-right MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) asked Friedman to have the US move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul requested that it be left in Tel Aviv. Another Zionist Union MK, Yael Cohen-Paran, attacked the Trump administration on climate change and warned that its actions on the matter would harm Israelis.
In the past, US Ambassador Friedman was the voluntary head of “American Friends of Bet El Institutions,” an organization that advocates the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and provides around $2 million per year to the Israeli settlement Bet-El. The organization also received donations from the family foundation of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. The settlement publishes the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva, where Friedman was a columnist. In his writings and statements, Friedman repeatedly argued in support of Israeli settlements, declaring them “legal.” The Yesha Council, the umbrella political organization of the West Bank settlements, also supported the ambassador, saying Friedman had a “deep love for all of the land and people of Israel, including those in Judea and Samaria,” the Israeli government’s term for the occupied West Bank.