J Street Invites Trump's Israel Envoy to Meet Ahead of Senate Confirmation Vote

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David Friedman appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, February 16, 2017.
David Friedman, President Trump's nominee as U.S. ambassador to Israel, appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, February 16, 2017.Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

WASHINGTON - J Street leaders invited David Friedman to meet with them despite the U.S. nominee for Israel envoy having denounced the organization as "worse than kapos."

Politico has published a letter from J Street's president, Jeremy Ben Ami, urging Friedman to meet with them, a day before the nominee was expected to be confirmed by U.S. Congress for the post of ambassador.

Ben Ami says the meeting would give Friedman an opportunity to prove the sincerity of his expressions of regret for his past remarks uttered during a Senate hearing last month.

So far, according to the report, Friedman has not replied, though Politico says Friedman has told senators privately he has agreed to meet with J Street.

"As you are no doubt aware, your nomination has caused controversy and debate within the Jewish community and in the U.S. Senate,"  Ben Ami's letter says.

"We understand that during this process you have committed to senators that you are willing to meet with pro-Israel organizations whose views you do not share, and with J Street specifically," Ben Ami wrote.

"We would also like to clarify whether you commit to meeting with delegations of lawmakers and pro-Israel advocates organized by groups you have criticized or with whom you may disagree, including J Street. Accordingly, I am requesting a meeting with you to take place before the final vote on your confirmation."

"Senators and other pro-Israel Americans should know before the final vote on your confirmation whether you stated willingness to meet with those you disagree is merely a 'hearing room conversation,' or whether you intend to make good on your representations to lawmakers," Ben Ami concluded.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Friedman's nomination on Thursday. He is expected to pass the committee, where the Republicans have a slim majority, but the main question is how many Democrats will vote in favor of his nomination.

In the past, ambassadors to Israel usually received strong bipartisan support, under administrations from both parties. Supporters of Israel in the U.S. worry about a scenario in which Friedman's nomination will pass according to party lines, further highlighting and deepening Israel's troubles with the Democratic Party.

By meeting with J Street, Friedman could enhance the chances of more Democrats voting in his favor. However, J Street has been leading the public fight against his nomination, which would make any meeting between him and the group's leadership a surprising development.

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