J Street urges Senate to probe Friedman over comments on settlements, Democrats
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J Street urges Senate to probe Friedman over comments on settlements, Democrats

Liberal Mideast advocacy group demands investigation of US envoy after he tells Times of Israel West Bank communities not illegal and Republicans support Israel more than Democrats

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in a Times of Israel interview at the US Embassy, Jerusalem, May 30, 2018 (Matty Stern, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in a Times of Israel interview at the US Embassy, Jerusalem, May 30, 2018 (Matty Stern, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

WASHINGTON — J Street called on the US Senate to investigate US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Thursday after he told The Times of Israel that West Bank settlements do not violate international law and that Republicans support Israel more than Democrats.

“J Street urges senators to carry out a thorough investigation of Ambassador Friedman’s conduct in office,” the liberal Mideast advocacy group said in a statement, adding that Friedman “has clearly broken his promises to senators to behave diplomatically and prudently in his new post and to put aside his own personal agenda.”

In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, Friedman took aim at Democratic lawmakers and party officials for, in his view, not backing Israel with the same alacrity as their GOP counterparts. “There’s no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats,” he said.

J Street — which describes itself as “pro-peace and pro-Israel” — decried those statements as inappropriate.

J Street logo
J Street logo

“With his comments today, [Friedman] has once again disturbingly blurred the lines between his role as ambassador and his long-standing status as a benefactor and promoter of the Israeli settlement movement and the Republican Party,” the organization said.

Friedman also reiterated his belief that the “settlements are not illegal” or an impediment to peace, which J Street said “undermined and confused longstanding US policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, arguing for their legitimacy.”

A longtime lawyer for US President Donald Trump, Friedman’s nomination for the sensitive diplomatic post was met with unprecedented controversy.

The Long Island native had a record as a fierce supporter of the settlement movement, a strident opponent of a two-state solution, and a history of vitriolic rhetoric toward left-leaning Jewish groups. He once said J Street members were “far worse than kapos,” referring to Jews who aided Nazis during the Holocaust, in a column for the right-wing Israel National News website.

During his confirmation hearing, Friedman expressed remorse for his remarks and vowed to behave differently as a representative of the United States government. “These were hurtful words and I deeply regret them,” he told the Senate panel. “They’re not reflective of my nature, or my character.”

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