J Street opposes Friedman for Israel envoy despite anticipated apology
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J Street opposes Friedman for Israel envoy despite anticipated apology

Liberal group says that even discounting the nominee's slurs against it, his temperament and support for settlements disqualify him

Donald Trump and attorney David Friedman exit the Federal Building, following an appearance in US Bankruptcy Court on February 25, 2010, in Camden, New Jersey. (Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News, via Getty Images/JTA)
Donald Trump and attorney David Friedman exit the Federal Building, following an appearance in US Bankruptcy Court on February 25, 2010, in Camden, New Jersey. (Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News, via Getty Images/JTA)

The liberal Jewish Middle East policy group J Street on Wednesday repeated its “strong objection” to the appointment of David Friedman, Donald Trump’s pro-settlement Jewish lawyer, as the next US ambassador to Israel.

In a statement sent to the media on the eve of his Senate confirmation hearing, the organization dismissed any connection between its objection and “the insults and attacks” previously hurled at it by Friedman. The longtime Trump ally once called J Street members and backers “worse than kapos” — a reference to Jewish collaborators with Nazis — for their support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rather, J Street said, its objection stems from Friedman’s “views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the two-state solution, and his deep and long-running personal and financial ties to the settlement movement, [which] run directly counter to decades of bipartisan US policy and to US and Israeli interests.”

Furthermore, the group argued, Friedman does not have the correct temperament to hold such a delicate posting, citing his other verbal assaults on those whose views he does not share.

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)
J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)

“We object because his consistent record of extreme and offensive attacks on senior US officials, on American diplomats and on liberal American Jews make clear that he lacks the temperament and responsibility required for such a sensitive diplomatic assignment,” the statement said. “Mr. Friedman’s modus operandi is to publicly and aggressively lash out against those with whom he disagrees on politics or policy. This quality calls into serious question his ability to serve as an ambassador.”

The bankruptcy lawyer was one of Trump’s chief surrogates to the US Jewish community during the election campaign, and also appeared several times on Israeli television. A number of liberal Jewish groups have raised concerns about the nomination, noting that Friedman is heavily invested in the settlement movement and his attack on J Street. Four Jewish members of Congress, all Democrats, have also opposed the nomination.

Regarding Friedman’s direct insult, for which he reportedly said he would express regret during his confirmation hearing on Thursday, J Street said he also owed other groups and individuals an apology for slurs he made against them.

Abraham Foxman with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Abraham Foxman with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 21, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“It has been reported that Mr. Friedman may apologize for hateful remarks that he has made about J Street. He certainly should apologize for the attacks he has made against us, though that would only address a sliver of the deep concerns about his fitness to serve,” the statement said. “Many others – including President Obama, the US State Department, the Anti-Defamation League and sitting US Senators – also deserve an apology from Mr. Friedman.”

In December, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League called language that Friedman directed at the group “unacceptable” and “ugly.”

In a post-election interview, Friedman castigated the ADL as “morons” for raising questions about a pre-election ad in which Trump spoke about secretive international banking conspiracies while featuring images of Jews that Trump associated with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

An image tweeted and then deleted by Donald Trump on July 2, 2016 that uses an apparent Star of David to call Hillary Clinton 'the most corrupt candidate ever!' (screen capture: YouTube)
An image tweeted and then deleted by Donald Trump on July 2, 2016 that uses an apparent Star of David to call Hillary Clinton ‘the most corrupt candidate ever!’ (screen capture: YouTube)

For noting the ad’s resemblance to classic anti-Semitic themes – albeit without mentioning the word “Jews” – Friedman said the ADL “completely destroyed and perverted their own mandate.”

The comments drew a furious response from Abraham Foxman, who retired as ADL director in 2015.

“Ambassador-designate Friedman’s ugly language in describing ADL, its current CEO and J Street is unacceptable and it undermines the need for unity in our community to face the challenges we know are ahead of us, whether it is rising anti-Semitism or the threat of radical Islam,” Foxman said in a statement issued by the ADL.

JTA contributed to this report

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