Democratic Senator Cardin to Oppose David Friedman for Israel Ambassador

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David Friedman takes a break from his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, February 16, 2017.
David Friedman takes a break from his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, February 16, 2017.Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most pro-Israeli senators in the Democratic Party, announced on Wednesday that he will be voting against the nomination of David Friedman, President Donald Trump's nominee to the position of ambassador to Israel.

Cardin's statement will make it harder for Friedman to win Democratic support for his appointment, both in the committee and on the Senate floor.

Friedman's nomination, Cardin said, does not strengthen bi-partisan support for Israel in the United States. Friedman's past statements would hurt his ability to carry out the job of ambassador, he noted.

Cardin also said that Friedman's position on the two-state solution goes against American policy and. therefore, would "undermine his ability to represent the United States as a credible facilitator of the peace process."

Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with on Iran deal. July 23, 2015. Credit: Bloomberg

Cardin was one of four Democratic senators to vote against the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. The only other Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee who voted against the Iran deal is Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) who, as of Wednesday afternoon, has yet to announce how he will vote on Friedman's confirmation. Menendez's questioning of Friedman during the confirmation hearing raised some eyebrows, when the strongly pro-Israel Senator asked Friedman if he understands that as ambassador, he will have to be fully committed to U.S. Policy towards Israel even if it contradicts his personal political beliefs.

Friedman could be confirmed by the committee even if no Democrats vote in his favor, since the Republicans have a one-vote majority in the committee. However, a vote along party lines would be unprecedented for the position of ambassador to Israel, and could be seen as a sign of increasing divisions between Israel and the Democratic Party under the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) came out against Friedman's  nomination. Feinstein, a leading voice within the Democratic Party on the two-state solution and one of the longest-serving Jewish members of the Senate, warned that Friedman was too "extreme" and "divisive" for the post.

J Street, the left wing Jewish group that is leading the fight against Friedman, said "Senator Cardin's opposition to David Friedman's nomination is a significant step.

"As a strong supporter of Israel and the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin's statement signals the growing recognition that Friedman is an inappropriate choice to serve as ambassador. We urge Senators on both sides of the aisle join Senator Cardin in opposing Friedman based on his record of inflammatory and undiplomatic statements and equivocation on a two-state solution.""

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