WASHINGTON - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) came out on Tuesday against the nomination of David Friedman to the post of U.S. ambassador to Israel. 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.
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"Friedman lacks the necessary temperament to serve in such a crucial position. His divisive rhetoric and dangerous positions are contrary to long-held policy and would undermine our national security by further inflaming tensions in the region," Feinstein wrote in an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Feinstein explained that "the U.S. ambassador to Israel is one of the most sensitive diplomatic postings in the world. The ambassador is charged with maintaining our vitally important relationship with Israel in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It requires carefully chosen words and actions, each of which are weighed and analyzed for even the subtlest of policy implications."
Feinstein is the most senior Democrat so far to publicly come out against Friedman's nomination, and to do so with such strong words. Still, Friedman is expected to pass confirmation in the Foreign Relations Committee this Thursday, and will most likely be approved by the entire Senate shortly afterwards.
Feinstein has been a supporter of the two-state solution for years, and was endorsed by J Street in her 2012 campaign for the senate. Feinstein was not among the dozens of Democratic lawmakers who boycotted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress in March 2015, yet she strongly criticized Netanyahu for his "arrogance" and attacked him for claiming to speak in the name of all Jews, saying – "he doesn't speak for me."
The senator also accused Friedman of rejecting "decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and international consensus toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" with his positions on the two-state solution, settlements and the location of the American embassy in Israel.
"Friedman expressly rejects the two-state solution. Since the Oslo Accords, the United States has consistently called for two states for two peoples. The reason is simple: The only way to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish democracy is through the creation of an independent Palestine by its side," Feinstein wrote. "The fact of the matter is that Israeli Jews are already a minority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. We simply cannot wish away Israel’s demographic challenge, which will only worsen with time," she added.
Friedman's "vision of a one-state solution," Feinstein warned, "would either exacerbate the conflict by ignoring the Palestinians’ inherent right of self-determination or would result in a state where the Jewish people were a minority. Perpetual conflict with the Palestinians will never create an enduring peace for Israel."
Regarding Friedman's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee three weeks ago, during which he declared that he in fact supports the two-state solution, Feinstein wrote: "Friedman’s positions are so extreme that he tried to walk them back at his confirmation hearing. However, pandering for votes doesn’t negate a lifetime of radical views. If confirmed, I seriously doubt he would push for a two-state solution after so forcefully denouncing it in the past."
Feinstein emphasized that from her point of view, "as dangerous as his policies are, Friedman’s past rhetoric toward those with whom he disagrees casts significant doubt on his diplomatic abilities."
In this regard, she mentioned his accusation that former President Barack Obama was anti-Semitic, and his claim that supporters of the left-wing Jewish groups J Street were "worse than Kapos," a reference to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis.