Whole New Ballgame
By Ruthie Blum
July 7, 2017
Ambassador to Israel David Friedman delivered a speech this week that made the
unbearably hot and humid weather feel like a breath of fresh air. At the
annual Fourth of July celebration, held Monday evening at his official
residence in Herzliya, Friedman not only reiterated his personal faith in
Judaism and the Jewish people, but stressed America's
"unbreakable bond" with the Jewish state.
bond Friedman was referring to had become so fragile during former U.S.
President Barack Obama's two terms in office that it became the punchline
of a joke made in 2014 by comedian Jay Leno. Obama, Leno quipped, knows
just how unbreakable the U.S.-Israel bond is, "since he's been
trying to break it for years."
was not only Friedman's address that was crafted to convey the loud and clear
message that the new administration in Washington is going to behave
differently -- that it is and will continue to be unequivocally and
unflinchingly on Israel's side. The fact that he was the first U.S.
ambassador to invite settler leaders to the event, and proudly pose for
photographs with them, already spoke volumes.
began by recounting that the first time he hosted a party in Israel was at the
Western Wall in Jerusalem, when he was 13. "As the son of a rabbi of
modest means, I can assure you that my bar mitzvah party bore absolutely
no resemblance to the party that we are attending here tonight," he
said. "But the spirit ... is exactly the same. It is the spirit of
patriotic Americans committed to increasing the ties and enhancing the
relationship between the United States and the State of Israel. That's
what my family stood for 45 years ago, and that's still who we are
right off the bat he boasted of his Jewish connection to the Western Wall in the
context of U.S.-Israel relations was highly significant. It signaled to
those supporters of President Donald Trump who became disillusioned by
what appeared to be a backtracking of his vow to move the U.S. Embassy
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that this is not a case of yet another administration
reneging on its promises in an attempt to appease the Palestinians and
impose a peace deal on Israel. It also indicated to Israel's enemies that
America recognizes Israeli sovereignty over its capital city.
went on to say, "It was just two months ago that I had the honor ... to be
the master of ceremonies at the very first party ever hosted by the White
House to commemorate Israel's Independence Day, [where] I had the
privilege to proclaim, 'yom haatzmaut sameach l'medinat yisrael' --
'Happy Independence Day to the State of Israel.' Today, it is my great pleasure
to return the favor from 6,000 miles away. And so let me proclaim, 'yom
haatzmaut sameach l'artzot habrit,' 'Happy Independence Day to the United
then he quoted, in Hebrew, a line from Psalm 118 -- "This is a day that the
Lord has made; let us [be glad and] rejoice in it" -- to make a
point about Israel's being "the source of many of the
Judeo-Christian values that spawned the American enterprise." He
invoked the famous Puritan Pilgrim John Winthrop, who in 1630
"implored his followers to be faithful to the teachings of the
Jewish prophet, Micah, to 'do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy
God,'" and told new immigrants to America that if they did so, they
would "find that the God of Israel is among us."
said that when Winthrop "referred to New England as a 'city upon a hill
with the eyes of all people upon us," he was also referring to
Jerusalem. Indeed, Friedman added, "So much of who we are derives
from the teachings of ancient Israel. And, perhaps for that reason, it is no
surprise that the United States and Israel have the most special of
again, Friedman purposely spoke of Jerusalem, emphasizing that the success and
mutual admiration that America and the Jewish state enjoy emanate from
have, of course, common enemies that unite us," he said -- as well as
military, trade, culture and cybersecurity cooperation. "But our
collective core, what fundamentally unites us, is that we are the two
shining cities on a hill, drawn together by a shared history, shared values and
... a shared destiny of continued greatness."
declaration was nothing short of momentous, particularly as it came on the heels
of senior Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner's June 21 meeting in
Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose henchmen described the
encounter as "tense." Apparently, being told by a prominent
member of the White House staff that the paying of terrorists' salaries has got
to stop is not what Abbas had expected to hear -- despite being yelled at
by Trump himself in May for having lied about the rampant incitement in
the PA against Jews and Israelis.
next allusion to Jerusalem involved noting that he is the "first [U.S.]
ambassador to accompany [Trump] in visiting the kotel hamaaravi, the
Western Wall." From here, he segued into his conclusion by talking
about how, earlier in the day, he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu had toured the aircraft carrier the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast
through strength, he announced (quoting King David's words in Psalm 29, which he
said his father used to recite every Shabbat morning) is "a
foundational cornerstone of the Trump administration" and a
"guiding principle of the State of Israel."
Friedman said that American men and women in uniform, like their Israeli
counterparts in the IDF, "hope never to fire a shot,"
preferring to keep the world safe through a demonstration of strength and
courage. However -- he implied -- they willingly sacrifice their lives in this
mission if left no other choice.
the new U.S. ambassador to Israel wound down his remarks by wishing the United
State a happy 241st birthday, the audience revved up its cheering for the
start of what Americans call "a whole new ballgame."