J Street’s Israel boss rejects Friedman’s remorse for ‘kapos’ remark
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J Street’s Israel boss rejects Friedman’s remorse for ‘kapos’ remark

Reform movement issues statement expressing opposition to Trump lawyer’s appointment as envoy to Jewish state

David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Israel director of J Street on Friday rejected the expression of regret by David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the Jewish state, for referring to the liberal policy group and its supporters as “kapos.”

Yael Patir maintained during an interview with Army Radio that the regret expressed Thursday by Friedman for applying the term — the Nazi designation for Jewish helpers in their oppression and annihilation of other Jews — was neither sincere nor worthy of being considered a real apology.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Friedman said in his opening remarks that his past attacks were campaign rhetoric he would abjure as a diplomat. Pressed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) — who said that Friedman’s attacks predated Trump’s campaign and were over the top even during a campaign — Friedman said he “deeply regrets” the remarks.

“I provided some context for my remarks, but that was not in the nature of an excuse,” Friedman said during the hearing. “These were hurtful words and I deeply regret them. They’re not reflective of my nature and character.”

Asked whether she accepted his apology, Patir said: “He did not apologize. He said ‘I used words I shouldn’t have.’ There’s a difference. There’s nothing to accept or not accept.”

Pressed to acknowledge Friedman’s apologetic tone, Patir repeated her position, adding: “When he apologizes, I’ll gladly accept his apology.”

Friedman noted during his testimony that he had personally apologized to Jewish senators and organizations he had offended, naming the Reform movement, the Anti-Defamation League and Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken. J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who was present at the hearing, noted on Twitter that J Street has yet to receive a similar overture. “Still waiting over here,” Ben-Ami said.

During the hearing, Cardin also pressed Friedman about past statements that appeared to oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and noted his backing for settlements, including some deep inside the West Bank.

Friedman replied that he had been skeptical of a two-state solution, but would welcome any solution arrived at by the Israelis and Palestinians that ended suffering for both peoples.

On Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said her country “absolutely supports a two-state solution, but we are thinking out of the box as well, which is — what does it take to bring these two sides to the table, what do we need to have them agree on?” she said.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The previous day, Trump at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu diverged with the official line of several previous presidents when he implied that he had no preference for that solution.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” the president said.

Patir, who began running the Israel activities of the liberal Middle East policy group in 2012, doubted Friedman’s sincerity, saying “He’d say anything to receive the confirmation.”

Her organization is among several left-of-center Jewish groups in the United States and in Israel fighting the nomination.

David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the US ambassador to Israel, concludes testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Feb. 16, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the US ambassador to Israel, concludes testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Feb. 16, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Also Friday, the Reform Movement issued a statement expressing its opposition to Friedman’s appointment.

“There can be no doubt that David Friedman loves Israel or that he has an extraordinarily close relationship with President Trump, but those are not the essential qualifications of a US Ambassador to Israel,” the statement read.

“After extensive consideration of his lengthy public record on issues related to Israel and the US-Israel relationship… we oppose the nomination of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. We urge all Senators to join us and vote against Mr. Friedman’s nomination,” it continued.

The statement then listed Friedman’s lack of qualification for the position.

Friedman, “unlike every other past holder of this important position, has no professional foreign policy experience” and “has never been involved in these issues other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.”

His views on key issues “suggest he will not be able to play a constructive role,” the statement said.

A protestor, holding a Palestinian flag, interrupts David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A protestor, holding a Palestinian flag, interrupts David Friedman, nominated to be US Ambassador to Israel, as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Friedman “has invested significant dollars in support of the settlements and a vision of Israel that we believe endangers both American and Israeli security and other interests in the region,” the statement continued, adding that he lacks the “necessary temperament” for “such a sensitive position.”

The statement mentions Friedman “publicly disparaging” American Jewish organizations, “calling fellow Jews ‘kapos’ and ‘morons.'”

“While we appreciate that during his hearing Mr. Friedman recognized the problematic nature of these remarks, we note that he has had an opportunity to apologize for those deeply offensive remarks every day since he made them months ago,” the statement read.

“Any American ambassador, let alone one in such a sensitive post, must possess a personality that instinctively seeks to bridge divides, rather than inflame divisions,” it said.

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