US senator: David Friedman ‘unfit’ for ambassador posting
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US senator: David Friedman ‘unfit’ for ambassador posting

Despite opposition, Trump’s nominee for envoy to Israel is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this week

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, right, talks with David Friedman, center, nominated to be US ambassador to Israel, accompanied by former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman on Capitol Hill in Washington, during Friedman's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, right, talks with David Friedman, center, nominated to be US ambassador to Israel, accompanied by former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman on Capitol Hill in Washington, during Friedman's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, characterized President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, as “unfit” for the job in an op-ed Monday.

In her piece, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, Feinstein cited the New York bankruptcy lawyer’s unbridled attacks against political opponents, opposition to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and financial support for the settlement movement as reasons she deemed Friedman unsuitable for the “sensitive” position.

While Friedman attempted to walk back some of his previously expressed views during a February 16 confirmation hearing, Feinstein wrote that “pandering for votes doesn’t negate a lifetime of radical views.”

“Even more frightening, I feel his confirmation would only fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she wrote, condemning what she said was Friedman’s inability to be a neutral arbiter of peace due to his comments calling the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership in question.

In closing her piece, she said that the ambassador posting was “far too sensitive to entrust in an individual so divisive.”

US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, explains her reasoning for voting "no" in committee on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general on January 31, 2017. (Screen capture/YouTube)
US Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, explains her reasoning for voting “no” in committee on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general on January 31, 2017. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Last week Friedman received the endorsement of Richard Sandler, the chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, who hailed Trump’s pick as an “intelligent individual.” The JFNA is the umbrella organization representing Jewish communities across North America.

Sandler acknowledged the inappropriateness of Friedman’s comments during the campaign, which included a characterization of the supporters of the J Street liberal advocacy group as “worse than kapos,” but pointed out that the remarks were made before Friedman knew he was going to be ambassador.

In an op-ed published in the Jerusalem Post during the presidential race, Friedman, who at the time was serving as a senior adviser to Trump, wrote in all-caps, “IF HILLARY CLINTON IS ELECTED, THE PRO-ISRAEL AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY IS GOING TO START TO FEEL A LOT LIKE THE JEWS OF FRANCE.”

Friedman apologized for some of his rhetoric during the campaign at the confirmation hearing, saying that there was “no excuse” for his remarks against liberal Jews.

On Tuesday, the Haaretz daily reported that Friedman’s ties to West Bank settlements run deeper than his previously noted chairmanship of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions.

Friedman, the report said, also made donations to Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli organization that aims to create a Jewish majority in the Old City and the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

J Street activists deliver a petition to the US Senate opposing the nomination of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, Feb. 28, 2017. (J Street/JTA)
J Street activists deliver a petition to the US Senate opposing the nomination of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, Feb. 28, 2017. (J Street/JTA)

Despite his ideological and financial investment in the settlement enterprise, Friedman told committee members that he would support a peace deal that saw control of Beit El transferred to the Palestinians.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Friedman’s appointment Thursday morning.

While progressive Jewish organizations have lobbied aggressively against his confirmation, Friedman is expected to garner enough support to move on to a full Senate confirmation shortly thereafter.

All of the committees Democrats plus one Republicans would be required to vote against Friedman to block the appointment; but New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez told The Weekly Standard last week that he was “inclined to be supportive,” signaling a step forward in Friedman’s confirmation process.

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