Trump’s pick for Israel ambassador clears panel
President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel earned the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, though all but one Democrat opposed his nomination.
David Friedman’s nomination will now go to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. But the 12-to-9 split over his nomination in committee is a sign that partisan divisions will hang over the process going forward, and possibly his Friedman’s expected tenure as ambassador.
His sole Democratic supporter on the committee was Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The others argued that Friedman’s record of incen- diary comments made him unfit for the post, despite his efforts to retreat from some of his more fiery statements during last month’s confir- mation hearing.
“The region is incredibly volatile. The last thing we need in this position is some- body who has a penchant for over-the-top, hyperbolic and even false statements,” said committee member Tim Kaine, D-Va. “There will be a volatility to his holding this position that is exactly the wrong ingredient to put in this important relationship and this region of the world.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the committee’s top Dem- ocrat, said Wednesday that he would not vote in favor of Friedman, citing concerns with several statements Fried- man made charging various politicians with anti-Semi- tism and a lack of support for Israel, as well as Friedman’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Cardin based his opposition on written comments Fried- man has made denouncing longstanding efforts to resolve the conflict by establishing a Palestinian state beside Israel — the so-called two-state solu- tion. Cardin argued that those remarks would “make it dif- ficult for him to have that type of credibility as a uni- fying force for the support of Israel in our American politi- cal system.”
“The problem that I have is that certain stakehold- ers who must be part of the peace process will look to his writings and will have a hard time looking at him as a facilitator for a level playing field negotiation for a twostate solution,” Cardin told reporters.
Friedman has written that the pursuit of a Palestinian state is a “damaging anachronism” — A comment based, he explained during his commit- tee hearing last month, on his “skepticism” about whether Palestinians were really will- ing “to renounce terror and accept Israel as a Jewish state.” He also attempted to back off from his stance, telling sen- ators that maybe such prob- lems could be remedied and that he “would be delighted” to see a mutually agreeable peace arrangement.
A two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians has been U.S. diplomatic policy for peace negotiations for decades, though then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry said late last year that Israel’s continued settlement-building in occupied territory the where the Palestinians hope to establish their state has put that solution in “serious jeopardy.”
In a potentially significant shift last month, Trump publicly stepped back from the two-state goal, indicating that he would be satisfied with other arrangements as well.
Friedman’s position on the two-state solution has not been his only problem before the Senate. Many other Democrats expressed their revulsion over other comments and insults Friedman directed toward Barack Obama during his presidency, top Senate Democrat Charles Schumer and others with whom he has disagreed over various Israel-related policies, such as the Iran nuclear deal that Israel opposed.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday narrowly approved the nomination of David Friedman, seen testifying on Capitol Hill last month, as ambassador to Israel.