Nominee apologizes, says he will be a respectful envoy
WASHINGTON >> The combative attorney President Donald Trump picked as his ambassador to Israel sought to repair the damage from past attacks on political opponents, telling Congress he deeply 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 Jews who helped the Nazis imprison fellow Jews 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-Israeli, 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. Protesters interrupted Friedman during his opening remarks. Two men, minutes apart, stood and shouted pro-Palestinian slogans. They each held up Palestinian flags before being removed by the Capitol police.
Other protesters sang before being ushered out. One blasted a shofar, an instrument made of a ram’s horn used by Jews during the High Holidays. He prefaced it with the traditional chant “tekiah” that precedes the blowing of the shofar. A woman shouted, “Do not confirm David Friedman. He is a war criminal!”