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An open letter to Thomas Friedman

Your latest article declaring that “Israel’s government is not normal” crossed a critical line.

“New York Times” columnist Thomas L. Friedman discusses “The Divide Between Order and Disorder,” Sept. 16, 2014. Credit: Chatham House Photo via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.
“New York Times” columnist Thomas L. Friedman discusses “The Divide Between Order and Disorder,” Sept. 16, 2014. Credit: Chatham House Photo via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.
Danny Danon
Ambassador Danny Danon is a senior member of Knesset and chairman of World Likud. He previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, minister of science and technology and deputy minister of defense.

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Our paths have crossed many times over the years, and I have always been struck by your evident passion for Israel, a passion that resonates in your writings and columns on the Jewish state and the Middle East. However, as much as your enthusiasm for our country is clear, I respectfully find myself at odds with many of your recent perspectives on Israel. Your recent criticism of the Jewish state, while undoubtedly heartfelt, appears to be rooted more in emotion than facts and more in impulsive reactions than a grounded understanding of reality.

Allow me to elaborate.

First and foremost, Israel stands as a vibrant democracy. Democracy, as you well know from your own U.S. citizenship, is built upon the principles of free and fair elections in which “we the people” choose our leaders. The current coalition and leadership in Israel were elected by the people of Israel through free and fair elections less than one year ago to represent their values and mandates.

Nonetheless, it seems that in your recent writings, you have chosen to ignore this reality and instead prioritize your ideological convictions over democratic principles and the will of the Israeli people. You’ve gone so far as to label the coalition government “an internal Jewish threat,” thereby choosing to undermine Israel’s democracy and suggest the need for external intervention. In fact, in one of your most recent pieces, you actually urged President Joe Biden and his administration to undemocratically interfere in Israel’s internal affairs and governance. Just as the United States grapples with its own challenges, we expect the courtesy of not having to endure external interference in our domestic affairs, nor calls for such interference.

Over the years, you’ve criticized Israeli prime ministers from across the political spectrum, from Yitzhak Rabin to Yitzhak Shamir to Benjamin Netanyahu. While many have considered your criticisms unfair or biased, they were tolerated as part of the democratic discourse. However, your latest article declaring that “Israel’s government is not normal” and imploring President Biden and the Saudi crown prince to “not let Netanyahu make you his useful idiots” crossed a critical line.

Criticism of Israel is welcome, as it is for any government that looks to do better, but labeling a democratically elected government “abnormal” and advocating for its removal is presumptuous at best and appallingly condescending to the Israeli voters who have freely expressed their will at the ballot box. It implies that your views hold more weight than those of over 2.3 million Israeli citizens who voted for this government.

I would suggest that your consistent approach of shaming and blaming Israel for all regional issues, regardless of actual responsibility, harms Israel more than any government’s poor policy decisions ever could. Statements such as your assertion that if this government remains in power, Israel “will never be a stable U.S. ally or Saudi partner” undermine and damage both Israel and the Israel-U.S. relationship. Furthermore, you inexplicably seem to derive great satisfaction in perpetuating anti-Israel sentiments against the world’s only Jewish state, despite your claim to be invested in its success.

Israel, a 75-year-old democracy, will undoubtedly continue to thrive and flourish for another 75 years and beyond. By their nature, democracies evolve, grow and change with time, people and governments. The challenges we face are complex, yet your ongoing oversimplification of the issues works against the leadership of our legitimate and democratically elected government.

We are one family, and although we may have disagreements, we need not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are alternative avenues for constructive debate within our nation. You are welcome to engage in dialogue with Israeli colleagues or visit Israel, as you did in 2019 when you acknowledged the nation’s achievements in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. Publicly disseminating libelous and confrontational claims against our country and its leadership is not the best way to criticize Israel, and only fans the flames of hate between us while providing our enemies with unnecessary ammunition. Instead of this, we should aim to foster dialogue between brothers.

Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year.


Danny Danon

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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