40,000 Sign Petition Against Trump's Israel Envoy Pick David Friedman

Petition delivered to members of the U.S. Senate describes Trump's nominee as 'a threat to longstanding U.S. policies in the Middle East.'

Trump's pick for Israel envoy David Friedman listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, Feb. 16, 2017.
Pete Marovich, Bloomberg

In their bid to block the nomination of David Friedman as the American ambassador to Israel, progressive Jewish organizations have presented members of the U.S. Senate with a petition signed by 40,000 people opposed to the appointment.

More than 600 members of J Street, the pro-Israel anti-occupation group that is spearheading the anti-Friedman campaign, fanned out over Capitol Hill on Tuesday where they hand-delivered the petition to Senate offices and held more than 150 meetings.

Friedman, known to be a staunch supporter of the settlement movement, has in the past rejected the notion of a two-state solution. In his confirmation hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee two weeks ago, however, he backed down from his longstanding positions.

Friedman has drawn fire for likening members of J Street to “kapos” – a reference to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. Never in the past has the appointment of an ambassador to Israel generated such controversy. 

The signatures on the petition were gathered in recent weeks in collaboration with the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and Ameinu. The petition describes Friedman as “a threat to longstanding U.S. policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.”

As part of their campaign, the progressive Jewish organizations have also been urging their supporters to call the offices of their senators to express their opposition to Friedman’s appointment. According to J Street, this appeal generated thousands of phone calls.

According to sources with knowledge of the proceedings, the committee is likely to vote in favor of Friedman's confirmation next Tuesday. The full Senate will then be asked to approve his nomination very soon thereafter - either that day or the following. For the nomination to be blocked, all the Democrats in the Senate and three Republicans would have to vote against it. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, has yet to weigh in publicly on the appointment.

In the past weeks, the leaders of two powerful Jewish-American organizations – the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America – have voiced support for Friedman. 

Friedman, a New York bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic experience, served as U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser on Israel matters during the election campaign. He had worked as Trump’s lawyer for 15 years.