Ha'aretz columnist Bradley Burston, in a lengthy blog post on U.S.-Israel relations, writes that many writers and "analysts" in his country of Israel consider New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to not only speak for the American people and president, but to be the "world's most important commentator." Friedman's recent criticism of the Israeli government's behavior in the Palestinian peace process had prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond, "We may have lost Thomas Friedman, but I don't think we lost America." Burston writes:
Given a consensus among Israeli analysts, rightly or wrongly, that the man they called the world's most important commentator was speaking not only for himself, but directly for Barack Obama as well, you can bet that Benjamin Netanyahu was listening.
...Long term, American emotional divestment, Jewish and non, may well prove more of a threat to Israel's future than Ahmedinejad and his bomb factories, or Nasrallah and Mashaal and their rockets.
Of course, Burston and Friedman largely agree on matters of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, which may inform the Israeli writer's strong praise here for his American counterpart.
But here in the U.S., Friedman has attracted criticism, sometimes harsh criticism, for some of his more controversial ideas: His praise for Chinese autocracy, his call for an "Islamic civil war," his comparison of Afghanistan to a "special-needs baby."
Whatever the accuracy of Burston's claims of the Times columnist's influence, at least we can agree he understands Friedman a lot better than state-run Chinese media.