Trump's Israel Pick David Friedman at Senate Confirmation Hearing: Two-state Solution Remains Best Path to Peace

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Friedman said that under a future, theoretical peace deal, he would support moving the West Bank settlement of Beit El, to which he has donated thousands of dollars, to Palestinian control, if it was part of the peace deal. Friedman also emphasized that as ambassador, he would support the president's policy regardless of his own political opinions.

He also said that he agrees with Trump that settlement expansion is not helpful to peace.

Friedman heads an American fundraising organization that pumps a few million dollars a year into the settlement of Beit El. (Amir Tibon)

What is it about this one religious West Bank settlement that has so captured the hearts and imagination of key figures in the incoming U.S. administration?

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To avoid any conflict of interest, David Friedman said he would sell his business interests in Israel. What are his business interests in Israel exactly? He holds shares in a boutique winery, Montefiore Winery. He also has holdings in Israeli founded and run companies in the United States, though its not clear whether that qualifies. Another question: Does it include his penthouse apartment in Jerusalem? (Judy Maltz)

For full article on Friedman's financial disclosure click here

Friedman showed at least one area of disagreement between himself and the Israeli government by saying that Israel could and should put more of an effort to improve the Palestinian economy and living conditions in the West Bank. Friedman also said that in order to avoid any conflicts of interest, he will get rid of all his holdings in Israel before assuming office. (Amir Tibon)

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ,) one of the most pro-Israeli members of the Democratic Party, told Friedman that while it is good to see his support for the state of Israel, his "loyalty" has to be to the interests of the United States, and asked if he agreed with that. Friedman replied that he did, "a hundred percent."

Friedman also said that he will sell his business interests in Israel before assuming the post of ambassador. (Amir Tibon, Barak Ravid)

Friedman said he did not intend to praise Russia about how it confronted ISIS, in response to question by Senator Cynthia Shaheen. Heres exactly what he wrote in a column for the Arutz Sheva website dated November 28, 2015: Vladimir Putin gets it. He may be a thug, as he was recently described by Senator Rubio, but he knows how to identify a national objective, execute a military plan, and ultimately prevail. (Judy Maltz)

Fact checking David Friedman on Russia.Credit:

In response to a question, Friedman said he does not support annexation of the West Bank and that he thinks a two-state solution is the most ideal option and the best possibility for peace in the region. But in an op-ed written six months ago for the Arutz Sheva website, titled End the Two-State Narrative, he called the two-state solution an illusion that serves the worst intentions of both the United States and the Palestinian Arabs. It has never been a solution, only a narrative. But even the narrative itself now needs to end. (Judy Maltz)

Fact checking David Friedman.Credit:

David Friedman says: "President Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority has positions that don't go together with peace."

"I don't see today Palestinian leaders that will agree for full Israeli security control in the West Bank."

Friedman says the the two-state solution remains the best path to peace. Going back on past remarks, he adds that he does not support an Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

Earlier, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) caused Friedman to clarify what were his views on the possibility of a one-state solution. In reply to a line of questions by Kaine on the subject, Friedman explained that he would support either a two-state solution in which Israel was recognized as a Jewish state, or a one-state solution in which all that state's inhabitants and residents would enjoy equal civil rights. "I don't think anyone would support a state where different classes of citizens had separate rights," Trump's nominee stated. Yesterday, Trump said he "could live with" either a one-state solution or a two-state solution, depending on what the two parties will agree on. (Amir Tibon)

Sen. Murphy asked Friedman: Have you ever issued a public apology?

Friedman didnt say that he had and didnt apologize publicly at the hearing but implied that he had issued apologies privately. I will continue to reject the inflammatory comments, I have reached out to the people hurt by the things I said, Friedman said, naming Jewish leaders and senators who he insulted and had presumably apologized to.

In at least two cases the apologies were fully accepted. (Allison Kaplan Sommer)

Senator Udall says David Friedman insulted members of Congress, and adds that there is a pattern in Friedman's behavior - anyone who disagrees with him is being labeled by him as an anti-Semite.

"David Friedman is totally unfit to lead members of the State Department. He might inflame the situation in Middle East," Udall says.

"I urge the majority in Senate to discuss Friedman's appointment again and think about moving in a different direction."

David Friedman tried to walk back some of his past remarks by saying they were a result of the tense presidential campaign of 2016, in which he served as Trump's chief adviser on Israel. Friedman called supporters of J Street, a liberal Jewish group, "worse the kapos" – Jews who assisted the Nazis during the holocaust – and also accused former President Obama and the U.S. State Department of anti-Semitism.

"I regret use of such language," Friedman said during his first hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The inflammatory rhetoric during the presidential campaign is entirely over. If confirmed my language would be measured," he added. Friedman went a step further by saying that there was "no excuse" for his choice of words.

Yet Friedman's attempt to pin it all on the fever and tension of the election campaign stands against his own conduct. Almost a full month after Trump's election victory, at a time when there were already rumors that Friedman could have a role in his administration, Friedman spoke before the annual Saban Forum in Washington, and refused to apologize or walk-back his inflammatory language, including the reference to J Street being worse than kapos.

The New York Times reported that at one closed panel, Friedman was interviewed by The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg, and the issue of his remarks came up. "At a private session this month at the Saban Forum, an annual gathering of Israeli and American foreign policy figures, Mr. Friedman declined to disavow the comments and even intensified the sentiment," the paper reported.

"Mr. Friedman was asked if he would meet with various groups, including J Street. Mr. Friedman said he would probably meet with individuals but not with the group, according to several people who attended. Mr. Goldberg then raised the kapos comparison and asked if he stood by it. Mr. Friedman did not back away. Theyre not Jewish, and theyre not pro-Israel, he said, according to the people in the room."

Three people who attended the closed session told Haaretz on Thursday that Friedman indeed refused to apologize for the statement, which makes his claim before the committee today that it was all a result of the election, somewhat problematic. Still, it is likely that for many of the committee's 21 members, his apology and words of regret during the hearing, will be enough to vote in favor of his confirmation. (Amir Tibon)

Friedman says: "If Israelis and Palestinians are able to achieve a two-state solution, I would be delighted."

"I expressed skepticism about the two-state solution due to the Palestinian's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," Friedman says.

"The two-state solution, if it can be achieved, will bring great benefits for Israelis and Palestinians."

Pro-Palestinian and Jewish protesters disrupt Friedman's hearing on multiple occasions. Some wave Palestinian flags while another calls Friedman "a war criminal."

Friedman says that some of the language that he used during the campaign has been rightly criticized. "I regret use of such language," he says.

"The inflammatory rhetoric during the presidential campaign is entirely over. If confirmed my language would be measured," he says, when he was interrupted by protesters, who accused Friedman of promoting racism and of being pro-settlements and pro-occupation.

The protesters start singing before being escorted out of the hearing. Another protester shouts: "Friedman is a war criminal."

Friedman says: "There is no excuse for my offensive comments. I deeply regret them. They don't reflect my character."

A Palestinian protester waves a Palestinian flag.Credit: Screenshot

Friedman says his inflammatory comments against Democrats around the Iran deal were motivated by his concern to Israel's security.

The Jewish protesters were members of the Jewish anti-occupation group IfNotNow.

Senator Cardin says he has questions about Friedman's ability to represent all Americans as Ambassador to Israel.

Cardin says the language Friedman used against people who disagree with him raises concerns about his preparedness for the job of ambassador and quotes several examples of offensive comments by Friedman against Jewish groups, liberals and democrats.

Senator Cardin says Friedman's positions against the two-state solution raises concerns about his ability to be the ambassador.

The confirmation hearing begins. Joe Lieberman has arrived as character witness for Friedman and urges bipartisan support for his nomination.

"David Friedman hopes for peace between Israel and its neighbors. He deserves bipartisan support for his appointment," he says.

"The close relationship and the trust between Friedman and President Trump will help him in his job," Lieberman says. "I am sure David Friedman wrote and said things in the past he regrets."

Friedman's confirmation is likely to garner more attention and interest than ambassadorial hearings usually do, thanks to his controversial views and statements with regards to Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. government that he's about to become a part of.

Friedman has said in the past that the U.S. State Department - his future employer if confirmed - is anti-Semitic. He has hurled a similar accusation at former President Barack Obama, and has called supporters of the Jewish left-wing group J Street "worse than Kapos" (Kapos were Jews compelled by the Nazis to carry out administrative tasks during the Holocaust). Friedman is expected to apologize for at least some of those statements during the hearing.

Friedman has no prior diplomatic experience, and received the nomination after being Trump's personal lawyer for many years, as well as serving as his adviser on Israel during the presidential campaign. Friedman's positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are to the right of the current Israeli leadership, as he has written in favor of a "one-state solution" that would include a widespread Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing on Thursday for David Friedman, whom U.S. President Donald Trump has nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Israel. The senators are supposed to study Friedmans answers to the preliminary questions he received, examine the documents he presented to ensure he does not have conflicts of interest, and ask him to clarify various points.

The Republicans have a majority on the committee and in the full Senate, so that even if new, problematic information is discovered during Friedmans hearing, yet the vote goes according to party lines, Friedmans appointment is still expected to be approved – moreover, not all the Democrats are likely to oppose him.

This is domestic American political reality. But more important is the diplomatic situation where Friedman is intended to serve, and it points to the importance of a reevaluation, in the White House as well as in the Senate, of the wisdom of this appointment. (Haaretz Editorial)

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its first confirmation hearing for David Friedman, President Trump's nominee for the position of ambassador to Israel, on Thursday morning. Friedman's confirmation is likely to garner more attention and interest than ambassadorial hearings usually do, thanks to his controversial views and statements with regards to Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. government that he's about to become a part of. (Amir Tibon)

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David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel whose confirmation hearings begin Thursday, is certainly no stranger to the country where he hopes to take up official residence very soon.

In recent months, considerable attention has focused on one facet of his connection to Israel: his leadership position in an organization that fundraises for institutions and projects in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

But a review of the financial disclosure report he submitted to the U.S. State Department ahead of his confirmation hearings indicates that Friedmans ties to the country and its people span far beyond Beit El. (Judy Maltz)

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A building in the West Bank settlement of Beit El dedicated by the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, was constructed illegally on privately owned Palestinian land, documents obtained by Haaretz show.

The Friedman Faculty House at the Raaya Girls High School is situated in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El. Part of this neighborhood was demolished by High Court of Justice order five years ago because the land had been seized illegally. The Friedman Faculty House is one of nine buildings left in the neighborhood that were spared demolition at the time. (Judy Maltz)

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An aerial view of Beit el with the Friedman Faculty House circled in yellow.Credit: Courtesy

Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel sent a letter on Wednesday to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging them to reject the nomination of President Trump's candidate for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, because of what they define as his "extreme positions" and because he is "unqualified for the position."

The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz, is signed by former ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Dan Kurtzer, Edward Walker, James Cunningham and William Harrop - diplomats that have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. (Amir Tibon)

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David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel, heads an American fundraising organization that pumps a few million dollars a year into the settlement of Beit El. The parents of Jared Kushner, Donald Trumps son-in-law, have donated many thousands to its institutions. The president-elect himself has made out a $10,000 check for Beit Els residents.

What is it about this one religious West Bank settlement that has so captured the hearts and imagination of key figures in the incoming U.S. administration? (Judy Maltz)

Read full story here

Beit El. The President-elect himself made out a $10,000 check for its residents and the settlement has a plaque in honor of U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman. Credit: Nasser Nasser/AP

An organization headed by David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel, is behind a new construction project in the West Bank settlement of Beit El recently approved by the government.

The project includes a five-story building – part of which has already been constructed illegally on private Palestinian land and will be retroactively legalized – and 20 housing units, according to the Peace Now Settlement Watch project. It is being funding by American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raises several million dollars a year for this particular settlement. (Judy Maltz)

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Illegal construction work in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.Credit: Azmi Badeer / Yesh Din

David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador designate to Israel, is expected to face some tough questioning during the Senate confirmation hearings on his appointment.

Friedmans views on the Middle East represent a sharp departure from longstanding U.S. State Department policy. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Israels settlement movement and rejects the notion of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Friedman serves as president of a fundraising organization that pumps a few million dollars a year into the radical West Bank settlement of Beit El. A bankruptcy lawyer, he has no experience in foreign diplomacy.

Haaretz has prepared a list of 10 questions those participating in the confirmation hearings might consider asking Friedman. (Judy Maltz)

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