This year’s Young Israel of Jamaica Estates Coalition for Israel Action L’Chiam 5K Run/Walk, was different than the previous sixteen. As always, the benefit, honoring the memory of Chiam Bohorozaner, was sponsored by his widow, Helen, and the Bohorozaner family. And, as in previous years, the family’s machatunum – in-laws – have also participated. But this year, an extended family member, always a gentleman involved in community affairs and politics, had recently gotten a new title: Ambassador.
On the morning of Sunday, June 18th, David Melech Friedman, Ambassador of the United States to Israel, came to New York City’s eastern borough. “Queens is a very special community,” he said with warmth, “a great little pocket of support for Israel – always appreciated. I come to the run every year.”
With family and bodyguards around him, Ambassador Friedman melded local pride with national politics. “It’s great to be back in the old neighborhood of Donald Trump,” he said, reminding everyone – who didn’t need reminding – that Trump’s red brick, colonnaded, boyhood home was only about a mile from the synagogue. Friedman offered a yasher koach – a “go with strength” – to the assembled runners, walkers, and supporters, calling the day “a great mitzvah for the State of Israel.”
“A year ago,” the Ambassador confided, “I was hanging out with (Dr. Joseph) Frager, speaking about what could be if there was a Republican President. What a difference a year makes!” Ahead of the day’s main event, he continued: “Speaking as United States Ambassador to the State of Israel, we are trying to turn the page, if not close the book, on the policies of the United States towards Israel over the last 8 years.” Trump, he reminded, “is the first sitting president in United States’ history to visit the Kotel – the Western Wall – of King Solomon’s Temple, one of the holiest sites for Jews and Israelis.”
Commenting on the United Nations, Friedman referred to the “unconscionable resolution passed in 2016 which decrees even the Kotel is occupied territory.” He called United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley “the greatest advocate for Israel that the United States has ever had,” encouraging his audience to watch Haley on YouTube. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” Friedman declared.
Friedman has raised official American visibility in Israel. He is the first US Ambassador to attend the opening ceremonies for the Celebration of the Reunification of Jerusalem. “There has been no United States representation at the event for 49 years!” The Ambassador promised “more good news on the horizon,” saying the Trump administration has completely turned the page on the policies of the past,” and is “just getting started on the mission,” emphasizing the “extraordinary relationship between the United States and Israel.”
The below is a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of the exclusive conversation between New York Jewish Life and Ambassador Friedman.
NYJL: How does the United States expect the Palestinian Authority to respond to the constant terrorism targeting Israel, specifically the recent murder of 23-year-old Border Policewoman Hadas Malka, killed at the Damascus Gate on June 16th?
Ambassador Friedman: The Palestinian Authority’s response to date is unacceptable. The attack should be condemned. We expect the PA to condemn all acts of terror against Israelis – against anyone!
NYJL: What changes can we expect in the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?
Ambassador Friedman: It’s too soon to really say. The President wants an agenda of peace, but never allowing that agenda to compromise Israel’s security, or force Israel’s government to take any action against the will of its people.
NYJL: How has your new role as Ambassador most changed you?
Ambassador Friedman: It’s a tremendous responsibility to have this role of maintaining and increasing the relationship between the United States and Israel, a country I have cared about my entire life. I am somewhat awestruck. I absolutely love it – the opportunity to serve the country of which I am a citizen in connection with the country to which I am emotionally and religiously bound. I appreciate the opportunity to connect and encourage Israel.
NYJL: What do you say to those who reference “the hyphen”, or accusations of dual loyalty to the United States and to Israel?
Ambassador Friedman: There is no hyphen. Unfortunately this question is asked of many Jews. It is an unfair question. Jews have served the United States with distinction. We’re all American, all of those who serve the United States. There is no daylight between the United States and Israel. It is my intention to strengthen and fortify that relationship in any and every way. President Trump is very serious about the commitment of the United States to Israel, and about strengthening our alliance in new and different ways, taking it to a level that is superior to what has been done in the past.
NYJL: Some are questioning the President’s ability to make progress in the Middle East given the multiple crises affecting his administration in Washington. Is this an issue?
Ambassador Friedman: What’s happening inside the beltway is confined to the beltway, and will eventually be cured. There are only so many bullets Democrats can fire.