Stephen M. Flatow is President-elect of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.
For months, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has been heaping praise on Israeli President Isaac Herzog. He’s “a good man,” Friedman wrote. He’s “Israel’s very decent, moderate president.”
Then Herzog stood up before the US Congress this week and proceeded to shred Friedman’s cherished beliefs about Israel and the Arabs.
Let’s start with President Herzog’s statements about Israeli democracy. They were the very opposite of the hysteria that Friedman has been spreading in recent months.
“I have great confidence in Israeli democracy,” Herzog declared. “I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA.”
Not Friedman. He claimed in his February 12 column that Israel is “drifting away from democracy, like Turkey, Hungary and Poland.” He has accused Israel’s government of working to “snuff out Israel’s democracy” (July 11). Friedman must be so disappointed that Herzog hasn’t bought into his propaganda about “drifting” and “snuffing out.”
On Iran, Friedman has paid lip service to the need to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, but he strongly supported the 2015 Iran deal and has written, “I support Joe Biden trying to revive the deal…Dealing effectively with Iran’s Islamic regime—in a way that permanently eliminates its malign behavior—is impossible…Iran’s Islamic regime is not going to change.” So, since it will never change, it has to be appeased.
That’s why Friedman hasn’t written a word against the Biden administration’s recent attempt to strike a new deal with Iran that will give the Iranians even more flexibility in their nuclear development and will give Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
President Herzog could have opted to say nothing against Iran in his congressional speech. He could have left the sensitive issue alone, in view of Biden’s ongoing diplomacy. Instead, Herzog said, “Iran is building nuclear capabilities that pose a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond,” and it is “unacceptable” to allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state. I doubt that’s what Friedman wanted to hear.
Most of all, what Herzog said about the Palestinian Arabs demolished what Friedman has been writing on the subject for decades.
The Israeli president denounced Palestinian Arab leaders for “condoning or legitimizing terror.”
Not Friedman. He never demands that the Palestinian Authority stop “condoning” and “legitimizing” terror. He doesn’t write about the statements by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials praising terrorists. Friedman doesn’t mention that the PA names streets, schools, and sports tournaments after terrorists. He never talks about the PA’s pay-for-slay policy of paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists. He never calls on the PA to disarm or outlaw terrorist groups or extradite terrorists to Israel.
The problem of the PA condoning and legitimizing terrorist is not on Friedman’s agenda. He must have winced and grimaced when Herzog brought it up in his speech to Congress.
Finally, President Herzog’s harshest blow to Friedman’s beliefs about the Middle East: “True peace cannot be anchored in violence,” Herzog declared. “Palestinian terror against Israel or Israelis undermines any possibility for a future of peace between our peoples.”
That’s not how Thomas Friedman sees it. Going all the way back to the 1970s (!), Friedman has been claiming that what undermines any possibility of peace is Israeli behavior—Israeli "settlements", Israeli actions against terrorists, Israeli reluctance to make one-sided concessions. In short, Friedman believes that Israel is the main obstacle to peace; but Herzog said that Palestinian Arab terror is the main obstacle to peace.
I wonder if Friedman will be repeating his praise of Herzog as “a good man” and “very decent and moderate” any time soon.