Trump’s Israel advisors likely to usher in era of improved US-Israel ties

November 10, 2016

Jared Kushner


David Friedman, an advisor to Donald Trump on Israel, with the president-elect


(See also below: Trump’s top initial 3 contenders for secretary of state are all firmly pro-Israel)



[Note by Tom Gross]

Yesterday, Donald Trump was elected U.S, president.

During the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, there have been complaints about a strain of anti-Semitism among some of Trump’s supporters and in some of the campaign advertising, as well as the hounding of certain Jewish journalists. That Trump has insufficiently condemned this is, of course, a matter of great concern.

This dispatch, however, only focuses on Trump’s likely Israel policy.


Israel is unlikely to feature prominently in Donald Trump’s presidency (compared to under other recent presidents). But to the extent that it does, it seems Trump will restore close ties between the US and Israel after some shaky relations during Barack Obama’s two terms in office over the Iran nuclear program and other issues.

Three main persons seem to have emerged as Donald Trump’s advisors on Israel.


Jared Kushner, the president elect’s son-in-law, could play a major role in the Trump administration. There are even rumors that he may be chief of staff.

As Trump met privately with President Obama at the White House this morning, Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough walked with Jared Kushner around the South Lawn.

Kushner served as Trump’s shadow campaign manager throughout the presidential race. Kushner kept a relatively low profile on the campaign trail, sometimes standing silently to the side of the stage, during big primary nights and at rallies.

Kushner is a pro-Israel orthodox Jew, married to Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism and is bringing up Trump’s grandchildren in a kosher home.

As I have reported previously in these dispatches, Kushner along with the editor of the New York Observer (which Kushner owns) co-wrote Trump’s keynote address to AIPAC earlier this year.



David Friedman, 57, is Trump’s longtime lawyer and friend. There are rumors that Friedman may be appointed as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Friedman works at the New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP, where several subscribers to this email dispatch list also work, including former U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman.

Trump and Friedman are quite close and Trump paid a condolence call to the family Shiva at Friedman’s parents’ home in Long Island after his father died.

Unlike some of President Obama’s advisors, Friedman has said that it is unwise for the United States to try and impose any solutions on Israel and that it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly to reach an agreement.

Just as the present American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is a friend of Barack Obama, and is close to the Israeli opposition and to leftist American Jewish groups such as J-Street, so Friedman is closer to American pro-Israel conservative groups.

He grew up in Woodmere, in Long Island, New York. His father, the late Morris Friedman, was rabbi of a Conservative synagogue in North Woodmere, and president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Friedman is a graduate of New York University Law School, and his family are longtime Republicans.

During the 1984 presidential race, Ronald Reagan became the first sitting American president to visit to a synagogue since George Washington in 1791, when he went to Friedman’s father synagogue and afterwards to the Friedman house for Shabbat lunch.

Friedman has, on various occasions, attacked the New York Times for its coverage of Trump. During the election campaign, he wrote in the Jerusalem Post that in some of its coverage of Trump, the New York Times “has the journalistic integrity of the worst gossip rag.”

“If only the Times had reported on the Nazi death camps with the same fervor as its failed last-minute attempt to conjure up alleged victims of Donald Trump, imagine how many lives could have been saved,” said Friedman



The third main Trump advisor on Israel is Jason Greenblatt, who serves with Friedman as co-chairman of Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee.

Greenblatt, 49, is the chief legal officer and executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Greenblatt, an observant, yarmulke-wearing real estate lawyer, was educated at Yeshiva University and New York University School of Law, and lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.

He is friends with several subscribers to this email list, who tell me he is “a mild-mannered, soft-spoken family man, more liberal than Trump”.

Greenblatt also runs a parenting blog with his wife, Naomi, a psychiatrist who focuses on women’s mental health issues. They often write about “teaching their six children ethics and integrity”.

During the presidential campaign, Trump came under fire for tweeting and then deleting an image that many found anti-Semitic (a six-pointed star next to a picture of Hillary Clinton, overlaying images of money). In response, Greenblatt wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that Trump has always been respectful of his many Jewish friends and employees, and had encouraged Greenblatt to take time off work to observe the Sabbath. He said that the star was a sheriff’s star, not a star of David.

Unlike Trump, who during the campaign took a very hard-line on immigrants and refugees, Greenblatt, the son of Jewish refugees from Europe, has written positively about his immigrant heritage, saying that America had given “refuge” to his family members, who “benefited tremendously by being able to raise the next generation in freedom.”


Tom Gross adds:: I think Hillary Clinton, had she become president, would also, on the whole, have been pro-Israel, and more so than Barack Obama. But Israel was not (and nor should it have been) a major issue in this campaign.



It will likely be some time before Trump appoints members of his cabinet. But the three persons who are believed to be top of Trump’s short-list for secretary of state all have strong pro-Israel records.

They are: John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006 in the George W. Bush administration. As long ago as 1991, Bolton played a key role in the successful U.S. effort to revoke the notorious U.N.’s “Zionism is racism” resolution while assistant secretary for international organization affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Another possibility for secretary of state is Newt Gingrich, who served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-1999. Gingrich is a staunch supporter of Israel and has repeatedly criticized the Palestinian Authority for refusing to compromise and negotiate with Israel in recent years.

A third name in the running is Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker has said that the Obama administration “got fleeced” on the Iran deal. Corker criticized Obama for giving up on “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, and for effectively allowing Iran, “to move from having its nuclear program dismantled to having its nuclear proliferation managed.”


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.