Pick for am­bas­sador to Is­rael faces heck­lers, tough ques­tions

Texarkana Gazette - - RECORDS/FROM PAGE ONE - By Tracy Wilkin­son

WASH­ING­TON—David Friedman, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to be am­bas­sador to Is­rael, had barely started his open­ing re­marks at his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing Thurs­day when the protests be­gan.

“Pales­tini­ans will al­ways be in Pales­tine,” shouted a man wav­ing a red, green and black Pales­tinian flag.

“You do not rep­re­sent us!” an Amer­i­can Jew in a kippa shouted a few min­utes later.

After guards es­corted the heck­lers out, Friedman faced tough ques­tion­ing from mem­bers of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee who are skep­ti­cal he can con­duct diplo­macy given his harsh pro-Is­rael views and in­cen­di­ary in­sults.

In re­cent years, Friedman has called then Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, other Demo­cratic lead­ers and crit­ics of Is­raeli ac­tions anti-Semitic. He likened lib­eral Amer­i­can Jews to Holo­caust-era ka­pos, Jews who col­lab­o­rated with the Nazis in con­cen­tra­tion camps. He once said the en­tire State Depart­ment had been anti-Jewish for the last half-cen­tury.

On Thurs­day, Friedman said he re­gret­ted his heated lan­guage.

“I can­not jus­tify these hurt­ful words, which I deeply re­gret,” said Friedman, a bank­ruptcy lawyer who has worked for Trump. “I have re­jected and I con­tinue to re­ject the in­flam­ma­tory com­ments.”

Friedman, the son of a rabbi, said he was qual­i­fied to be am­bas­sador be­cause of his deep knowl­edge of Is­raeli his­tory, born of a life of study and more than 50 vis­its.

He also cited his close friend­ship with Trump and his flu­ency in the He­brew lan­guage.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., called on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to with­draw the nom­i­na­tion, say­ing Friedman was “com­pletely un­fit” for the job. He also in­tro­duced a let­ter from five for­mer am­bas­sadors to Is­rael from Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions who ob­jected to the nom­i­nee.

“We need a steady hand in the Mid­dle East, not a flame thrower,” Udall said.

Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin of Mary­land, rank­ing Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, said he was espe­cially dis­traught over Friedman’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader, as hav­ing ca­pit­u­lated to ter­ror­ism when he en­dorsed a his­toric 2015 deal that blocked Iran’s abil­ity to pro­duce nu­clear weapons.

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