IS­RAEL-EN­VOY pick vows to change.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD LARDNER

WASH­ING­TON — The at­tor­ney Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump picked as his am­bas­sador to Is­rael sought to re­pair the dam­age from past at­tacks on po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, telling law­mak­ers he re­gret­ted us­ing in­flam­ma­tory lan­guage and promised to be “re­spect­ful and mea­sured” should he be con­firmed.

Dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing Thurs­day, David Friedman said he de­served crit­i­cism for in­cen­di­ary com­ments that tar­geted for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, lib­eral Jewish ad­vo­cacy groups and oth­ers. Friedman had called one group, J Street, “worse than ka­pos” — a ref­er­ence to se­lect Jewish pris­on­ers who helped the Nazis su­per­vise fel­low Jews in con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing the Holo­caust.

“Apol­ogy is the first step to atone­ment,” Friedman told the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. “I have pro­found dif­fer­ences of opin­ion with J Street. My re­gret is that I did not ex­press my views re­spect­fully.” The son of an Ortho­dox rabbi, Friedman has been a fer­vent sup­porter of Is­raeli set­tle­ments, an op­po­nent of Pales­tinian state­hood and staunch de­fender of Is­rael’s gov­ern­ment.

The hear­ing played out along fa­mil­iar party lines. Repub­li­cans largely sought to play to the Trump nom­i­nee’s strengths, while Democrats aimed for weak spots. Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., vig­or­ously de­fended Friedman and re­jected the no­tion that he needed to dis­tance him­self from pas­sion­ately held be­liefs. Ru­bio ar­gued the U.S. should be unashamedly pro-Is­rael, not­ing that the Jewish state is Amer­ica’s staunch­est ally in the volatile Mid­dle East.

But Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., de­liv­ered a blis­ter­ing as­sess­ment of Friedman’s record, which the se­na­tor said is full of in­sult­ing com­ments and ex­treme views. Friedman la­bels any­one who dis­agrees with him, in­clud­ing the en­tire Obama State Depart­ment, as anti-Semitic, Udall said.

Udall re­ferred to a let­ter from five for­mer Amer­i­can am­bas­sadors to Is­rael who called Friedman un­fit for the post. The for­mer en­voys, who served Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­dents, cited ex­am­ples of Friedman’s “ex­treme, rad­i­cal po­si­tions,” such as be­liev­ing it would not be il­le­gal for Is­rael to an­nex the oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Friedman as­sured mem­bers he would not cam­paign for such an an­nex­a­tion. He also cau­tioned against the ex­pan­sion of set­tle­ments in the West Bank. “It makes sense to tread very care­fully there,” Friedman said, echo­ing words used by Trump.

The let­ter op­pos­ing Friedman’s nom­i­na­tion was signed by Thomas Pick­er­ing, Wil­liam Har­rop, Ed­ward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cun­ning­ham.

Friedman said he “ab­so­lutely” sup­ports a two-state so­lu­tion, but said he’s skep­ti­cal such an ap­proach can suc­ceed be­cause Pales­tini­ans haven’t re­nounced ter­ror­ism and have re­fused to ac­cept Is­rael as a Jewish state. But he said he would be “de­lighted” if it were pos­si­ble to reach a two-state agree­ment.

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