Trump’s pick for Is­rael am­bas­sador clears panel

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Karoun Demir­jian

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee yes­ter­day nar­rowly ap­proved the nom­i­na­tion of David Fried­man, seen tes­ti­fy­ing on Capi­tol Hill last month, as am­bas­sador to Is­rael.

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