The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is likely to hold confirmation hearings on the appointment of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel as soon as next week. According to a source knowledgeable about the proceedings, major efforts are underway to schedule the start of the hearings for Thursday – a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.
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Friedman’s extremist views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been cause for serious concern in liberal circles, and various progressive Jewish organizations and activists have been mobilizing to block it. Never before has an appointment of an ambassador to Israel aroused such controversy.
Friedman is a staunch supporter of the settlement movement and rejects the notion of an independent Palestinian state. He heads an organization that raises funds for Beit El, a radical West Bank settlement. American Friends of Beit El Institutions, as Haaretz reported on Wednesday, helped fund illegal building projects in that settlement, which are to be retroactively legalized.
A bankruptcy lawyer, Friedman has no experience in diplomacy. He served as Trump’s lawyer for 15 years and was one of his senior advisers on Israel during the presidential campaign. He has said that, as ambassador, he will work out of Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv. The Trump Administration has promised to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but has not taken any practical measures to move the promise forward.
For Friedman’s appointment to be blocked, all of the Democrats and at least three Republican would have to vote against it.
Friedman’s attacks on respected Jewish organization have also been cause for alarm. He referred to members of J Street, a pro-peace, anti-occupation organization, as “worse than kapos” – a reference to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. He also called the Anti-Defamation League a “bunch of morons.”
In a statement issued ahead of the confirmation hearings, J Street referred to Friedman as a “totally inappropriate and dangerous choice” for the position.
A new ad hoc organization of Jewish studies scholars opposed to the new administration recently circulated a petition urging the Senate to block Friedman’s appointment.